Three Tips for Sports Parents

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Two girls playing soccer
Two girls playing soccer.

Sports are an integral part of life. They are a part of entertainment, our school systems and our culture in general. Being involved in a sport is a great way for individuals to develop and master skills and exercise is essential for physical and mental health.

We all want the children in our lives to succeed in their goals. As we encourage them, it is important to keep perspective and not lose sight of what is really important. It’s easy to say that the end goal is winning, but it’s the process that gets your athlete there that makes all the difference. At the end of the day, winning is not in our control but the things that are in our control lead to winning.

“We want to utilize the idea of growth and process,” says Valerie Valle, Psy.D., sports psychologist in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Institute for Brain Protection Sciences. “Understanding the meaning of what we are doing is key.”

Help your child embrace the process and aim for their personal best with these tips.

  1. Give some space. Sports provide a training ground for kids to figure things out on their own. Let them have a little bit of space and watch how they deal with things that are out of their control. One of the main concepts athletes learn from sports is how to deal with things that are uncertain or difficult and how to do so while interacting with teammates, coaches and competitors.

  2. Offer feedback. Place praise on the process and not the outcome. Things like effort, attitude and good sportsmanship are fully in the athlete’s control. These qualities can add up to a good outcome for the game or competition and should be encouraged. While reinforcing positive behaviors is important, there is a time for discouraging negative behaviors as well. If your child is demonstrating less than desirable behaviors, such as lack of effort or unsportsmanlike conduct, take a moment to discuss how that can actually be detrimental to their goals and talk about how they can gain control of the situation in more positive ways.

  3. Be a role model. Your children are always watching you. How you interact with other parents, coaches, referees or other athletes can impact how your child will treat those people. Model good sportsmanship and other positive behaviors that you want to see your child exhibit. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that social media can impact performance. Successes and failures are more visible than ever before. Some people thrive on praise through social media. Some know how to let a bad comment roll off, while others can’t shake it off. More research is needed to fully understand the impact of social media, though current studies are indicating a general feeling of discontent and excessive social comparison. Encourage your athlete to trust in the process and limit social media usage if it becomes overwhelming.

Center for Behavioral Health at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

Center for Behavioral Health
The Center for Behavioral Health in the Institute for Brain Protection Sciences at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, provides evidence-based mental health screening, consultation, evaluation and treatment.

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