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being a good sports parent

being a good sports parent isn’t always easy, and in some instances, it can be downright challenging. Luckily, there’s a lot of recent research about how to encourage child athletes in healthy ways.

“A lot of times, parents are their kids’ first coach, when maybe their child is looking for them to be a parent and to support them in the best way that they can,” explains tennis pro Kellen Thomas in an interview with PHL17 News. Kellen Thomas, the director of player development at High Performance Tennis Academy, is familiar with the many challenges sports parents face. He’s one of several youth sports experts offering improvement tips for sports parents in Philadelphia. 

If you’re a sports parent, you already know that the line between being supportive and overzealous is thin. Luckily, there’s a lot of recent research about how to encourage child athletes in healthy ways. At eseo, we understand that being a good sports parent isn’t always easy, and in some instances, it can be downright challenging. Keep reading to learn about key ways to provide a healthy, supportive environment for your child athlete. 

In many areas of life, but especially in youth sports, parental support is key to success. At eseo, we make it our mission to provide sports opportunities and resources for kids and their parents across Philadelphia. Visit us online to learn more

Enjoy the Present

Nothing takes the joy out of sports like neglecting to enjoy the present. And enjoyment is, afterall, the primary function of kids' sports. When parents focus solely on their child’s next steps, next leagues, future opportunities, etc., they miss the larger picture, as well as the game.

Similarly, when parents fixate on their kids’ past mistakes, kids can lose their self-confidence. A loss of self-confidence invites self-criticism, perfectionism and pressure that can wreak havoc on their performance and enjoyment. If your child is struggling to enjoy the present, you may need to remind them (and yourself) that the game is about having fun. 

Model Positive Behaviors

Parents are their kids’ most influential role models. Their behavior sends powerful messages to their kids about what they value. If you’re educating yourself about being a good sports parent, make sure you’re modeling positive behaviors. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Compliment players who don’t win. If you only congratulate the winners, you communicate that victory is the only thing worth applause. Encourage kids for their effort, athleticism, good attitudes and teamwork. 
  • Be aware of your comments. Your attitudes, whether positive or negative, will influence the attitudes your children adopt. Avoid negative or disparaging comments that belittle players or undermine coaches. 
  • Ask about your child’s experience. By asking if your child had fun during a sporting event, you communicate that you care about their enjoyment. 

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Provide Helpful Feedback

Feedback can be helpful or devastating, depending on the content and how it’s delivered. Before providing feedback for you child, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do I have enough context and information to provide this feedback? 
  • What is my desired goal for providing this feedback? 
  • Will this feedback benefit or punish my child? 

Exploring your intent can help you provide feedback that can encourage, rather than disparage, your child. When you’re ready to provide feedback, initiate a conversation where you listen and engage before offering your insight.


Foster Independence

For many kids, joining a sports team is one of their first experiences of independence. Allowing children to develop a sense of autonomy helps their physical and mental health in a number of ways. Research suggests that autonomy can improve children’s social interactions, sense of community and cognitive performance. 

Unfortunately, many sports parents fall into the trap of becoming over-involved in their child’s sports life. If you’re intent on being a good sports parent, try to avoid the following behaviors

  • Coaching from the sidelines
  • Co-opting your child’s experiences as your own
  • Becoming too emotional about their game

Celebrate Wins and Competitor Wins

When you only celebrate wins, you communicate that wins are the only accomplishments worth noting. However, you don’t want to avoid victory celebrations altogether. Experts say there’s plenty of middleground. Try these approaches: 

  • Celebrate reaching goals and milestones, not just victories
  • Be mindful that winning and losing both come with their own unique challenges
  • Shift focus from winning to achievements such as trying hard, enjoyment, cooperation, a positive attitude and fortitude in difficult situations

Treat the Coach as an Ally

Nothing causes more awkwardness for a child than parent-coach tension. When parents and coaches treat each other with animosity, their issues can create a nightmarish situation for youth athletes. Experts that say when it comes to the parent-coach relationship, both parties have a role to play. 

Parents can treat their child’s coach as an ally by doing the following: 

  • Make early, positive contact
  • Offer assistance instead of demanding involvement
  • Keep your emotions in check
  • Empathize with the difficulty of the job
  • Offer team support, such as rides, snacks and logistical assistance

Coaches can foster healthy relationships with their players’ parents by doing the following: 

  • Keep an open line for communication
  • Establish appropriate roles and boundaries
  • Remain calm and professional in tense situations
  • Treat athletes and their parents with appreciation

Find Sports for Your Kids

In his interview with PHL17 News, Kellen Thomas says that parents will find they have a better player — and better person — if they emphasize character traits over winning. He concludes, “Things like being coachable, being self-aware, having integrity — those are life skills that translate well beyond the tennis court and can make your child a success in everything they do.” 

Although being a good sports parent isn’t always easy, it’s worth pursuing. Supportive parenting increases a child’s enjoyment of the game and can instill the confidence needed to take chances at greatness in the game and in life. eseo is committed to providing sports parents with the best resources to support their child’s sports dreams every step of the way. 

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being a good sports parent isn’t always easy, and in some instances, it can be downright challenging. Luckily, there’s a lot of recent research about how to encourage child athletes in healthy ways.