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Encouraging Sports without being “That Parent”

How do you encourage sports for your kids? Our daughter started her first competitive team sport this year when the 5th/6th grade team needed to go down to 3rd grade to fill a team with subs. It was a lot of fun to watch her try, and even more fun when I got a chance to help out with coaching halfway through the season.

My husband and I have always promised not to be “that parent” when it comes to sports. Both of us came from families that encouraged positive sportsmanships and pushed us to do well, but didn’t pressure us to perform. However, we’ve both seen overbearing parents, as well as the challenges that can exist for youth – not just their children, but others on their team.

How can you, as a parent, encourage your kids without too much pressure?

Here are a few things that our parents did, that has helped us as we’re cheering our daughter on.

Girl-Basketball

  • Focus on sportsmanship. Few kids are actually going to make a living in sports, but the skills improved by practicing good conduct on the playing field – grace under pressure, collaboration, encouragement, positive attitudes – will be with kids always.
  • Encourage effort and contribution. Our daughter is young for her grade and lagged behind the others simply because she was so young. However, we worked with her to figure out what she could contribute to the team. Two things our daughter excels at are energy and happiness. She ended up winning the team joy award for her positive attitude even when the team was down. She also made an impact in several victories by simply tiring out her defenders running in and out of the lane on the court, which meant the more talented players could come in and score later in the game by running past those defenders.
  • Be conscientious with praise. Don’t praise too much, or it loses its meaning. When you do praise, focus on specifics. In the cases above, instead of telling her she played an awesome game – which, let’s face it, she didn’t – we specifically noted her energy, the fact that she got up after being knocked down, or something else that occurred in the game. This was also something the head coach did with all players after every game, and it was much more effective than generic praise that could be doled out whether or not we were paying attention.

Remember, it’s just a game. If your goal is that your kids have a positive experience, then help make sure that it is!

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Bekah Jorgensen

Bekah Jorgensen is a licensed educator with eleven years experience in grades PK-12, teaching math, music, and German. She also has a Master’s of Education in Learning and Technology. Bekah blogs at Motherhood Moment about parenting, saving money and time, and more. She is also the mother of a Kindergartener and third grader.

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15 Comments

  1. Cascia Talbert March 19, 2016

    Great tips. Bekah. Our oldest tried sports when she was younger, but she wasn’t very good. My husband and I still tried to remain positive during her experience so that she wasn’t discouraged.

  2. Julie S. March 20, 2016

    These are great tips! Encouraging participation but still enjoying the game is how to get started.

  3. Great advice here. I have 4 kids and keeping active is so important to us as it helps maintain a healthy body and healthy mind

  4. Cascia Talbert March 20, 2016

    Yes, it is so important to stay active. Thanks for stopping by, Natalie. Have a great night!

  5. Cascia Talbert March 20, 2016

    I agree, Julie. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great night!

  6. Hung Thai March 20, 2016

    Great advice! I especially like your point about being conscientious of praise – giving them out where deserved. I wonder if it’s just as important to point out a few things for kids to improve on? Having something to strive for and work on is critical too.

  7. Bekah March 20, 2016

    We actually did do that too. After each game we’d pick out one thing she did well on, one thing she had improved on from previous games, and one goal for the next game. It was nice for her to have one goal for each game, instead of trying to master everything at once, and also nice for her to hear what we noticed had gotten better.

  8. kristimaloney March 21, 2016

    These are fantastic tips – so important for kids to learn good sportsmanship and that comes from the parents!

  9. Shannon March 21, 2016

    This is great. We are a huge sports family. My daughter has been playing soccer for 3 years now and loves it. It’s starting to get competitive but we try and teach her that she’s learning so much from it!

  10. alicia March 21, 2016

    Love the advice about encouragement and praise. It’s important to listen to kids as well, as to what they like to play. I have one daughter interested in cricket of all things, and from what I saw on the weekend the youngest may like soccer.

  11. Cascia Talbert March 22, 2016

    Cricket, wow, that is pretty cool. Glad to hear your kids like sports. Thanks for stopping by, Alicia. Have a terrific Tuesday!

  12. Cascia Talbert March 22, 2016

    My six-year-old used to play soccer. This fall he will start playing football and he’s super excited. Glad to hear your daughter is enjoying soccer. Thanks for stoping by, Shannon. Have a terrific Tuesday!

  13. Cascia Talbert March 22, 2016

    Yes I agree. Thanks for stopping by, Kristi. Have a terrific Tuesday!

  14. Cascia Talbert March 22, 2016

    Glad to hear your kids are active. Thanks for stopping by, Natalie. Have a terrific Tuesday!

  15. Cascia Talbert March 22, 2016

    Yes. Thanks for stopping by, Julie. Have a terrific Tuesday!