Understanding Your Parenting Approach
Your parenting approach may have a direct impact on your athlete’s performance. Most parents have the best of intentions when it comes to their children participating in sports. Still, all too often, even the most well-intentioned parents fail miserably at creating a nurturing and thriving environment for their young athletes. This results in a break-down in the parent-child relationship and underperformance in the athlete. On the flip side, a healthy parent/child relationship and focus can help your athlete achieve their full potential.
Self Symbolic Approach
Parents are inclined to pass their own unfulfilled goals onto their children. The parents feel like an extension of the child’s success and/or failure. Not only will the parents bask in their child’s glory, but they will also overshare it with the world via social media to boost their own self-esteem and self-worth.
Focus on Return on Investment (ROI)
Competitive youth sports are expensive. Participation rates among children in households with annual incomes of $25,000 or less are 16%, whereas youth from wealthier homes (annual incomes of $100,000+) is 30% (aspeninstitute.com). The average American family spends $2,292 per year on youth sports, with 20% of families spending more than $12k per year. With that sort of investment, parents are expecting a return. The return can come in many areas: quality coaching, fair and consistent refereeing, good organization, improvement of skills, etc. Often, the parents demand or expect performance results, and there is hell to pay when the results are not perceived as favorable.
The Attachment Approach
Research shows that a child’s attachment to his or her parents and the expression of the relationship with parents is more intense among athletes than non-athletes. A child’s participation in youth sports gives parents the ability to initiate conversation and provide emotional and informational support. One study concludes that elite youth soccer players feel closer to their parents as a result of soccer. Sports experiences increase closeness.
Self Determination Theory
Parents have the ability to help their children’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivations mature over time. One survey of athletes found that first, the athletes discussed how their parents’ roles diminished over time. Second, the majority of athletes mentioned how their parents’ roles shifted from coach to mentor. Indebtedness emerged as the third factor. Indebtedness is defined as the concept of athletes wishing to repay their parents’ investment by making them proud.
On the flip side, Amado et al. (2015) conducted similar research using self-determination theory. They found parental PRESSURE diminished the basic psychological needs like autonomy, competence, and relatedness, which are essential in the self-determination theory and a child’s healthy outcome in terms of motivation.
No matter where you fall on this list, we all have the capacity to be great sports parents and to connect with and support our kids on this journey if we do a few simple things:
1- Maintain a balance in their lives with school, family, friends, spiritual life, and service to others.
2- Keep it all in perspective. There is a 99% chance your child won’t be playing past high school, reinforcing skills like time management, physical activity, camaraderie, learning to fail and lose, and teamwork. Don’t focus on winning, getting a scholarship, and personal gain.
3- Be grateful. In the blink of an eye, these days will be gone. Count each day; you get to watch your athlete play as a blessing and focus on building a positive relationship with your child.
Dr. Jon Coles is a former collegiate coach, administrator, and high school athletic director. He is now a practicing sports counselor and professor of sport management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org