It was not until I became a coach, that I truly started to understand the effect sports can have on children. At practice one day after a bad loss, I remember asking my team what scared them the most. Hands flew in the air, as each one of them was eager to shout out their answer. I honestly could not believe what I heard next. It wasn’t their opponents they feared the most, it was the car ride home and what their parents were going to say to them after the game. After years of watching my children play, I never realized that I was part of the problem. I only wanted to tell them what they were doing wrong, to help them grow as an athlete. That day, everything changed for me.
For young athletes, a parents understanding and approval, can make or break an athlete. Parents can choose to cheer their kids on and enjoy watching them play, or they can make it so their kids live in fear of the sports they play. Imagine this, you step onto the field ready to play; then your mind is suddenly flooded with fears of failure, embarrassment and intimidation. You feel like throwing up.You cannot focus, and the thought of letting your teammates down scares the hell out of you. You can feel your every move being judged from the sideline. People are screaming at you, telling you what you should and should not do; while you are playing. It becomes impossible to focus on the game. Now imagine that you are only 10 years old and it is your parent’s making you feel this way.
You know what comes after the game. Whether you win or lose, it is the car ride home you fear the most. The “back seat beat-down.” The time when mom and dad inform you of everything you did wrong. You want to scream back at them, “you never even played the game,” but you do not. You sit listening, as they suck out any enjoyment or pride you experienced from the game.
For a child, the fear of living up to their parent’s expectations in sports can have a terrible effect on their psyche. Their greatest advocates have become their biggest obstacles.We are all guilty of the backseat beat-down. As parent’s, It’s time to take a different approach. What if we build them up instead of breaking them down? What if we flood them with hope, instead of drowning them in fear? The game is hard enough. Let them love the sport and the time you spend together. Be proud of what your child is doing.Support, love and encourage everything they do. Cheer your heart out and let them know that you are there biggest fan. Do this and you will see the champion within your child emerge. The ball is in your court mom and dad. Are you ready to play?