You remember your child’s first game? His first hit or goal? Remember how cute she looked with her ponytail bouncing as she ran down the soccer field? Or how serious your little leaguer looked as he stared down the pitcher?
It was all so fun at first, wasn’t it?
But sometime between then, and now, a very subtle change comes over many sports parents. Perhaps you’ve felt it. Instead of experiencing pure enjoyment at watching your kids play, you now have tinges of stress and uncertainty.
If that’s true, then chances are you’ve developed one or more of these parental habits that can suck the fun right out of watching your child play sports.
• Having unrealistic expectations of your child. Instead of demanding near perfection from your child, let him make mistakes without fear. Let him not always be on his game. Let him have brain farts. Let him be a kid.
• Comparing your athlete to another athlete. This one is so subtle most parents don’t realize they are doing it. “Look how fast Susie ran those bases!” “Wow, did you see him drive that ball to the hoop?” We point out how good another athlete does in hopes of motivating ours to do better. Guess what? It doesn’t work. Your athlete has his own strengths and abilities. Let him excel in those without measuring him up to his teammates.
• Taking the game too seriously. Do you get really, really mad at the refs? Do you feel depressed after a loss or after your child has a bad game? Do you pour over your child’s stats and insist that the records be perfect? Do you push your kid so hard that they are starting to push back? These are pretty good indicators that your child’s games have become way too important. Remember, they are called games. They are supposed to be fun.
• Missing the opportunities to laugh. For two years, my daughter was on a volleyball team where the girls laughed a lot when they played. Perhaps they seemed silly to some, but these girls learned a very important lesson that many sports parents need to learn: sometimes you just gotta laugh about your mistakes.
• Worrying about your child’s performance. The funny thing about worry, is that it never once helped my kids play better. It only stressed me out, and made watching the game less fun.
• Over-analyzing the game. Learning from the game is one thing; dissecting the coach’s actions, your child’s performance, or the team’s mistakes until you are sick of thinking about them is quite another. As an analytical person, I have lost my appetite, sleep and rationality because I tend to over-think. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it go.
• Failing to see the bigger picture. And just what is the bigger picture? That sports are not the end in themselves. Playing sports brings excitement and recognition. It may even help pay for college and open doors for the future, but nothing will ever be more important than the type of person your son or daughter becomes in the process.
I know about these sports fun-suckers because I have done every one of them. And I have learned there is only one way to beat them: perspective.
Take a step back and look at the world outside your child’s sports. Being too wrapped up in their competition makes parents lose sight of what’s really important in life.
With a healthy perspective on the importance of your child’s games, there is not much that beats the fun of watching your kid play sports.