We’ve all seen them — the parents screaming obscenities at the coach from the sidelines or being overly enthusiastic about their child’s performance in a game.
As it turns out, kids are noticing this behavior — and they don’t like it one bit.
In a recent i9 Sports national survey of children ages 8 to 14 who participate in team sports, one-third of kids say they wish their parents weren’t watching their games because adults “yell too much, are too distracting, make players nervous and put pressure on them to play better and win.” Ouch.
Anything but a thumbs up
What’s more horrifying than children being embarrassed by their parents’ behavior at their sports matches is that almost 45 percent of kids surveyed would rather play video games than sports! Nearly 75 percent say gaming is more fun than playing sports; 28 percent say sports can be too competitive; 17 percent say they feel too much pressure to win.
“We forget sports are teaching tools for life. Kids are learning behaviors picked up by teammates, coaches and parents. We need to be better teachers. We need to let kids have fun,” says Brian Sanders, COO and president of i9 Sports.
Take it easy
Sanders offers the following tips to help parents keep youth sports enjoyable for kids:
- Remember, it’s just a game! Be a fan of the game itself and cheer for all players.
- Be a positive sideline parent; your child needs your approval and support, regardless of what happens in the game. Accept that your child will make mistakes and help him or her learn from them.
- Focus on getting better from week to week; don’t focus on the score. Studies have shown that almost 50 percent of youth will quit organized sports by age 12 because it stops being fun and there is too much pressure and competition. The focus should remain on being the best they can be.
- Remember the benefits on and off the field or court for your child to learn new skills, develop healthy habits and make new friends.
Be a better sports parent
“Kids love to have parents cheering them on while they play their favorite sports, but sometimes that cheering can cross the line,” says Sanders. “When support emphasizes winning rather than striving to better their skills and enjoy themselves, it can take the fun out of the sport for the child.” Winning is only everything if you teach your child to believe that it is. After all, the i9 Sports survey found that 63 percent of kids say they still have fun even if their team loses.
We’re not talking the NFL or Olympics here — sports for kids provides an opportunity for young people to determine where their interests lie and learn the important lessons of cooperation, success, failure, practice, and determination.
Is your child athlete truly happy?
Let’s face it — your kid probably isn’t going to say, “Mom, I really hate how you behave on the sidelines of all of my games.” So it’s up to you to determine if your child is truly happy on the field — and with you on (or off) of it.
Sometimes kids will do anything to please their parents, even if it means continuing on with a sports activity that makes them anything but happy. “Children look to their parents and adults at the game to set the tone of the experience,” says Sanders. If you as a parent are filled with ire and frustration, your child can only feel anxiety. Focus on fun, help your child develop confidence and self-esteem, set realistic expectations and, above all, tell your child you’re proud of him.