The right equipment. Bright new uniforms. A positive attitude and a willingness to work hard. These are just some of the obvious things your daughter will need to succeed in any athletic endeavor, but there’s one thing she’ll need that’s maybe not so obvious: your daughter will need you to be the best “sports parent” you can possibly be. Sports parents have a big impact on their young athletes and a healthy experience will depend on your ability to instill confidence and self-esteem in your daughter.
Here are five things you can do to increase your daughter’s chances of finding fulfillment in her sport that won’t cost you a penny. Because when a girl drops out of sports, she misses out on all the incredible academic, social and leadership skills that befit young athletes.
- Encourage Joy in the Effort: There is so much research that proves young athletes’ main motivation to play sports is to simply have fun. Studies also indicate that a primary reason why these same young athletes drop out of sports is, “It isn’t fun anymore.” Girls want to play sports for personal enjoyment. And when the fun disappears, so do they. Don’t let your daughter fall victim to her self-esteem and enjoyment in sports as a direct correlation of the outcomes on the field or the court. There’s so much joy to be had in moving her body, in working as a team, in making friends and in being a leader.
- Maintain Open Lines of Communication: Tell your daughters what you expect as a sports parent, like giving maximum effort, listening to the coach, having fun — and ask what they are thinking. Make it very clear you want to know how they feel about what’s happening in practices and in games. This type of two-way communication is essential for your daughter to feel supported, and to feel safe and able to approach you with any problems that might arise.
- You’re a Role Model: We’ve all witnessed that mom or dad who screams from the sidelines or argues with the coaches or even other players. Don’t be that sports parent. Be a positive role model for your child. Sport should be an extension of your familial values and behaviors and as the sports parent, it’s up to you to emulate those standards at all times. Don’t talk badly about your child’s teammates and competitors or loudly second-guess the coach. It’s okay — even powerful — to appreciate the athletic skill of a competitor and subsequently teaches your child a lesson in sportsmanship.
- Don’t Live Your Dreams Through Your Daughter: All sports parents want their daughters to perform well. This is natural and healthy. But sometimes parents over-identify, and the child becomes an extension of themselves. Parents who are winning or losing through their children can put extreme pressure on their children. In these cases, the young athlete must excel, or the parent’s self-image is threatened. To avoid this, don’t define your own self-worth in terms of how accomplished your children are by living vicariously through their wins and losses, and certainly don’t let them do that either.
- Perspective, Perspective, Perspective: It’s unlikely that your daughter will ever make millions of dollars as a professional athlete. But she will walk away from her sports career with countless intangible benefits that will set her up to be a success in many other facets of her life as an adult. Sure, when you’ve invested time and money into her sports experience it’s always nice to win. But it’s more important to remember the bigger picture and not just solely focus on the scoreboard. Ask your daughter what lessons she learned through a tough loss or a hard-fought win and have a conversation about how those lessons might apply to her life more broadly.