My kids started playing soccer at age 4 so we’ve been on the sidelines of several pee wee games. It’s easy as parents to get caught up in the excitement of the game and wanting your child to succeed. But it’s also easy to cross over into the gray area from support to overbearing. Learn how to support your budding athlete with these tips.
The most obvious way to support your young athlete is simply to be there. But simply showing up at the field isn’t enough. If you’re on your cell phone or chatting with other parents, your child will quickly realize you aren’t really watching. Focus your attention on your player and her teammates. That way, when she asks if you saw her amazing goal you can honestly tell her you did see it and you are so proud of her.
You can also support your little athlete by practicing with her at home. You don’t need to be a coach or even know much about the sport to help kids at the pee wee level. Kick the soccer ball back and forth out back, or practice catching the softball. You show your child that you are interested in her sport and want her to succeed by investing that time together.
Ask About It
You’re busy. I understand. And kids tend to rattle on about their current interests until you want to scream, “No more!” But being a supportive sports parent means you’re going to have to listen to her recount the game highlights (even though you saw them yourself). You may have to listen about the awesome game they played in practice, or how she wants to be a professional soccer player when she grows up.
Don’t shy away from asking about the game or practice for fear that the conversation will never end. Give your child a chance to be the star of the family by talking all about her sport.
Curb the Negative
When your child takes the field, you want her to do her very best. You don’t want her to fail or feel overshadowed by her teammates. Use caution when giving advice or shouting directions from the sidelines. She may take your loud suggestions as a sign that she’s not doing well. Instead, cheer her on with encouraging remarks. If she runs really fast but still misses the ball, congratulate her on the hustle. If she misses a play even though she did what she was supposed to do, tell her she’s got the right idea and to keep trying. These little positive comments can keep your athlete going even when she’s having a rough game.
You want your child to commit to a sport once she signs up, but forcing your child to participate when she really doesn’t want to is a quick way to make her dislike the sport. These days it feels like you need to start your child in a sport as a toddler if she’s going to succeed. But don’t let her miss out on the simple joys of playing and being a child. Let her take a season off if she decides she needs a break. Forcing her into something she doesn’t want to do may make her push back even harder.