Tips to Being a Winning Sports Parent

Being part of a team is a big part of why people, especially kids, participate in sports. It means having a good attitude even when someone messes up and hoping that others will do the same for you when you mess up. It means trying hard even when you don’t want to, controlling yourself when you don’t feel like it, focusing on doing the right thing and showing concern for others.  They learn so much from being part of a team; life lessons about winning, losing, practice, effort, and attitude.  In sports, everyone-parents, athletes, coaches-has a different role to play. Follow these tips to fulfill the role of a winning sports parent: 

Set Expectations 

With sports performance coaching, I teach kids to be responsible on and off the field. To support this, a winning sports parent should discuss what you expect from your child and what they can expect from you. Identify things like trying hard, having a good attitude, improving their skills, being a good team-mate, and listening to the coach.  

Be a Good Role Model 

It’s important as a sports parent, to embrace failure. Make a more clear distinction with failure and losing or some other kind of failure here.  Discuss what it means to be a good sport and ask them why they think it’s important to say, “good game” and shake hands with (or respectfully acknowledge) their opponents, win or lose.  

The most common reason kids drop out of youth sports is because it stops being fun. Typically, when parents (and even coaches) push too hard or set unrealistic expectations. My big push for sports parents is always to help kids embrace failure this will help your child develop a growth mindset.   

Tell your young athlete: ‘I love watching you play.’

Teach Them about Good Competition  

Sports is about learning to deal with challenges and obstacles. The more the challenge, the better the opportunity you have to go beyond your limits. Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences aren’t fatal; they aren’t permanent. We’re talking about a game.  

The most successful people in and out of sports do two things differently than everyone else. First, they are more willing to take risks and therefore fail more frequently. Second, they use their failures in a positive way as a source of motivation and feedback to improve.   

If You’re Not the Coach, Don’t Coach 

Let the coaches do their jobs. Coaching your athlete from the sidelines is not helpful. It’s been shown to actually inhibit their athletic achievement and performance.  Working with your coach by keeping him or her informed, and respecting boundaries, gives your child the best chance of success. Winning sport parents let coaches coach. 

Give Win/Loss Perspective 

It’s okay to be disappointed after a rough loss or a tough game. You can be guaranteed your child will be. But praise and rewards should be doled out in equal measure regardless of the outcome of the game.  

One of my favorite tips for sports parents is to say to your child “I love watching you play.” This helps keep their focus on the process and not the outcome (the W or L). 

It’s so simple and so important to remember; they just want us to be proud of them and to enjoy being there watching them play. If you have given your best, and you can say to yourself “I have done what I can while maintaining sanity, health and the well- being of my family and relationships,” then you are a successful sports parent. 

Kathy A. Feinstein is a top sports performance coach in Southwest Florida. She is also the host of the popular sports podcast: Parenting Peak Performers. If you’re the parent of a student or youth athlete and want your child to achieve more and remove barriers to performance on and off the field, contact us for a consultation