School sports provide a number of benefits to young scholars: they help build confidence, encourage physical fitness, promote academic success, nurture leadership skills, teach cooperation and teamwork… the list goes on and on. As parents, how can we best support our student athletes?
Student Athletes: 7 Parenting Tips
- Remember That Student Comes First. School comes first. Most schools require students to maintain a certain GPA or other related expectations before they can participate in extracurricular activities. If your child is involved with outside clubs or teams, maintain these standards on your own. It is essential that they learn the skills and maintain the discipline to put their studies first.
- Encourage All-Around Health. It’s hard to give your all on the field, the court, or in the pool if you’re not eating and sleeping well. Offer a menu full of healthy foods (you know the deal… veggies, fruits, lean proteins, complex carbs, etc.), limit sugary and fatty treats, and reinforce the importance of proper rest.
- Let the Coaches Do Their Jobs. The coaching staff needs to coach. You need to parent. You should be on the same “team” in regard to this. It’s the coach’s job to train your student athlete safely and with an eye toward progress. Unless he/she is putting your child at risk for injury or acting in a demeaning or bullying manner, honor his/her decisions. Having your kid play right field instead of first base isn’t a health or safety issue. (On a similar note, be a good spectator. You are a role model, and if your child sees you yelling at coaches, other teams, or officials, he/she will not only be embarrassed, he/she may develop poor sportsmanship habits.)
- Take a Step Back. One of the benefits of school sports is that they foster independence. Take a step back and let your child work with his/her coach and team. Let your child have the space to stand on his/her own in this context. You’ll be right there on the sidelines, cheering him/her on.
- Foster a Growth Mindset. Instead of, “Did you win?” or “How many goals/points did you score?”, try an approach that emphasizes growth and improvement. This isn’t the NBA or the Olympics. It’s an opportunity for your child to learn – and to have fun. Teach the importance of trying, perseverance, displaying good sportsmanship, working on both strengths and weaknesses, and practice, practice, practice.
- Stay Involved. Go watch your child’s games, matches, races, and tournaments. Cheer. Bring healthy snacks. Drive your child to and from practices and games. Play a round of HORSE in the yard after dinner.If you’re parenting student athletes, sports take up a lot of your time! Make it enjoyable, and you’ll find one more avenue through which you can connect with your children. If you can’t make every event, don’t worry. Take the time to ask – and listen – afterward!
- School Sports Should Be Fun. At this point in your child’s development, athletics should take work; they should require commitment; they should require effort. But they should also be a source of enjoyment.Kids have enough pressure on their small shoulders. Sports should be an outlet, not a source of stress. For you, too! Sit back and watch your youngster run around and play, or relax and listen to your child’s play-by-play after you get done from work.
School sports can be tremendously advantageous to young people – and to families as a whole. This is one more way you can spend quality time together and teach valuable life lessons.