Being a student athlete can be a fun and exciting time for your child, whether they are participating in a recreational summer league or playing on the high school team. Being part of a team is a great way to feel accepted and make friendships that last a lifetime. Teammates share a special bond with each other.
There are many ways you can be there and support your student athlete to make it a fun and non-stressful experience for everyone!
1. Student Athletes Are Students First
If your child wants to do a sport, it's important to remember that he or she is a student first. Being a student athlete can be a fun extracurricular activity, but you need to keep in mind that schoolwork should come first. Most schools do not allow students with low grades to participate in sports. Jim Thompson, founder and CEO of the Positive Coaching Alliance says that "parents that stress academics first always seem to have students who are a lot more comfortable. They are not as pressured and they tend to be more successful."
Click here to see an excerpt from Thompson's book on easing parent tensions during high school sports.
2. Encourage Healthy Food Choices
We all know that our bodies perform a lot better when we eat the right kinds of foods. This is especially true for the student athlete. They are burning a lot of calories during practices and games, and you need to do your part in helping them fill up on healthy foods. Focus on lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Encourage them to drink plenty of water, especially when the weather is warmer. This is a great resource for helping you make healthier choices while meal planning.
3. Encourage Rest
Much like healthy eating, athletes need to get plenty of rest. This helps their bodies recover from a tough workout and helps them have enough energy to perform to the best of their ability.
4. Let the Coaches Coach
The coach is in that position for a reason. He has the skills required to get the job done. Let the coach do his job. Instead of complaining or trying to coach from the stands, ask the coach how you can help. Most coaches gladly accept volunteer help even if it's something simple like getting water or snacks for the athletes. Remember not to overstep your bounds. If there is an unresolved problem with the coach, contact the athletic director or league coordinator to get on the correct course of action.
5. Focus on Character Building
Focusing on the character building aspects of athletics, rather than the skill or winning, is so important. Don't try to live vicariously through your child. The coaches will handle the skills and other aspects of the game. It's not you don't care if they win or make the basket, but for most athletes, the game is over when high school is over. The majority of students do not play organized sports in college or beyond, so focusing on the character building aspects of the sport helps the kids learn important life lessons. "Letting kids participate in sports gives them the opportunity to learn many valuable lessons," says Rick Wolff, cofounder and chairman of the Center for Sports Parenting. "However, it's up to parents to help their children apply what they learn from sports to other areas of their lives."
Some life lessons that can be learned from participating in sports are:
- Learning to try, even when it leads to failure or getting hurt
- Learning to win or lose gracefully
- Learning to have fun, win or lose
- Learning to work together as a team
- Learning that everyone can do something, we all have strengths and weaknesses
- Learning that practice makes perfect
6. Be Involved and Show Up
Helping your child play catch or go for a run over the weekend are a couple of ways to show your support, but don't cross the line of becoming another coach. Ask your child how practice went or if you can help them prepare for the upcoming game in any way.
Showing up to all the games, banquets, and other events can also mean a lot to the student athlete. It shows that you care when you take time from your busy life to see what is going on in theirs.
Encourage your child, and tell them they did a good job. Be there for them when they feel like they didn't do their best or when there is a disappointing loss. Make sure your child knows you are there for them and proud of them, no matter what.
When a group of college athletes were asked what parents have said that made them feel great and encouraged them the most after a game, it was a simple response with no judgment, correction, or conditions.
"I love to watch you play."