Here are a few ways you, as a parent, can be a positve force on your child's team and therefore contribute to their success. Parents have a much larger influence on youth teams than most people realize, both good and bad. It is not always easy but I promise if you commit to being a positive force it will be reflected in your child’s performance and ultimately your child’s team. On the flip side, parents can be responsible for small amounts of negativity that can literally ruin the experience for everyone involved. Here are some ways you can take the initiative to make sure the everyone has a good experience.
- Tow the line
- Spread the mojo
- Be a cheerleader, NOT a coach
- Take Advantage of Quality Time
- Promote camaraderie through team events
Tow the Line
Coaches need more help than they will ever admit. Therefore, make sure you introduce yourself early and let the coach know you are willing to help in any way they see fit. If your team has a team manager then make sure they also know your are willing to help in any way. A camaraderie developed between the adults involved with a team will trickle down to the players. More often than not it will also be contagious and other parents will also offer up their services.
When you offer to help make sure you are clear that you will help in whatever areas they need help. Do not start to impose by offering up your coaching services. Most soccer coaches will have a good curriculum of soccer drills they have developed over years or handed to them by the association. When a parent does this it raises a red flag to a coach because it usually is a sign that the parent wants to be more involved with coaching their child. When you offer to help be crystal clear you are willing to help with anything the team needs, in other words set an example of a true team player. Your son or daughter will notice you actions and attitude and it will carry over to them as well as the team.
Spread the Mojo
Everyone likes to see their kid’s team have success. However, when things are not going so well the first thing I typically notice is a few grumblings from groups of parents. The gossip about particular players or the coaching. The easiest thing to do is to buy in and contribute to this chatter, however, it is more harmful than you can imagine. If you find yourself in one of these situations you need to remove yourself right away. Next, take some time to think about when and how you can plant positive seeds.
The best way to do this is to embed yourself within a group of parents at the next game. Offer to bring coffee for the parents or some other way to break down the walls and get some camaraderie flowing amongst the parents. Regardless of how the game is going blast out some positive comments about other players. Give compliments to other parents about their players. Trust me, this will be contagious and will help defend against the negativity that might otherwise rise up and take over. As funny as it sounds, parents also want to come away from practices and games feeling good about their child’s performance. As adults we can be the worst critics and think our child’s performance is a reflection of our parenting. It sounds ridiculous but be honest with yourself and ask yourself if that notion has ever crossed your mind. That is why a few positive words to other parents about their kid goes a long way. So spread the mojo!
Do Not Coach
It does not matter how many times this is mentioned in parent meetings, emails, and one on one conversations. There will always be a parent coaching from the stands or sidelines. There is nothing wrong with cheering and yelling for players to “SKATE” or “RUN” or “STAY WITH IT”. However, when you start yelling out positioning and how to play the game then check yourself and go back to the car! More often than not the coach will have provided conflicting instructions. Do you like it when you receive two different sets of instructions at work? How frustrated does that make you? Can you perform your best under those circumstances? Leave it to the coach. You may disagree but it is better for your player to receive instructions from ONE source.
Take Advantage of Quality Time
Sometimes the best time for love is when you kid or team has had a rough game. Your kid will be looking for support from you if they trust you. You need to build that trust. Put your arm around them and let them know first and foremost you are there for them. These can be very constructive moments if you take advantage of them. Do not let them complain about teammates, referees, or coaches! Instead, find things they did well and plant seeds in their head about how they can have a different outcome next time. It is also good to be honest about their effort and their attitude. Talk to them about how they can build up their teammates and set a good example through their attitude, effort, and body language. You need to make sure in these conversations that you never talk negatively about other players, coaches, or teammates as it will filter through your child and chances are they will be less accountable because they are learning to place the blame somewhere else.
Organize team functions
Most players will remember youth sports as the relationships and fun they had with teammates. As adults we tend to lose sight of this because we always want to have some measure of success. However, think back to your experience in youth sports. Do you remember your wins and losses (aside from a few special ones)? I bet you remember your teammates and I bet you remember positive experiences.
As a parent you have the ability to create experiences for your child and their teammates. Here are a couple of ideas:
Organize a team meal after practice once a week
Send and email or announce at the first team meeting that you will be doing a team meal after one of the practices each week. Let everyone know it is completely voluntary, not mandatory., and make sure everyone knows that siblings are invited. We would send out an email the night before each team meal to ask who all is planning to attend and ask that people contribute a couple dollars for each of their kids that attend. Parents will typically take advantage of it as now they have one less thing to do on team meal nights. In our experience it was a great bonding time for the team as they got to hang out and have fun outside the practice or game environment.
Maybe once a month or a couple times throughout the season organize a movie night. Again, make sure people know it is completely voluntary. Offer to watch over the team and take them out to a movie and invite any other parents that would like to go. Another way to do it is invite the team to your house for a movie, again be sure to invite any parents that would like to go.
Take them to a game
If you have an opportunity to take them to a professional game in their sport it can be a great way to keep the social component within the context of the sport. It will take some initiative but it is even worth contacting your local professional team because many of them will offer up discounts to youth teams or do something special for them at the game.
Please take a little time to reflect on how you approach your child’s season as a parent. Your goal should be to be a positive force for the good of the team. You can help create an environment that will help promote the camaraderie and positive team culture. Here is a quick recap…
- Do not contribute to any negativity surrounding the team, instead plant positive seeds.
- Offer up to help the coach and team manager but be sure not to overstep the parent / coach boundary.
- Be a good example for your child and nurture a positive attitude, good effort, and good body language.
- Do not coach from the sidelines.
- Organize events that promote team camaraderie.
If you take these recommendations to heart you, your child, and your team will come away with a positive experience. Chances are you could have a lasting impact not only for your child but possibly another child on the team. The positive course is contagious, but the negative course is too, your choice!