Prior to becoming a mother I knew little to nothing about sports. As a child I watched the World Cup with my family many times. However, the World Cup was an opportunity to join in together and root for Colombia. I was not necessarily interested in understanding the game. I also remember getting caught up in the wins of The Miami Hurricanes of the 80’s. Those moments of watching football were also mainly about the social interaction, emotional roller coaster, and the fun. Today, sports have a completely different meaning. It has become the way I get to witness my daughter’s sense of purpose, responsibility, drive, and joy. My daughter is a soccer player. She began while only four years old, and she is still at it now. It has been breathtaking to watch her take on something that she loves and works at strenuously. However, while I am out at the games I get distracted at times by what I see on the spectator side. I understand the mood swings of the parents and family members. A sporting event is both socially and emotionally triggering, but as parents it is important to keep our children front of mind even while in the stands. The following are suggestions on how you can enjoy the game and also parent your athlete:
Support Don't Coach
There are three main rules to parenting - keep routine, keep consistency in responses to your child, and keep teamwork with the people that help you care and educate your child. The coach who works with your child is part of your caregiving team. When you disagree with the coach or scream out plays to your child on the side line you are breaking the rule of teamwork amongst caregivers. You see, at the time of the game or practice, the coach is in charge of the routine, consistency, and direction for your child. When you scream out plays you decrease the authority of the coach and create a dilemma in your child’s mind of “who do I listen to.” Always remember to listen to and be curious of the lessons the coach is giving. It is imperative to support the coach’s choices. If you can't or find that you don’t agree with the coach’s direction most of the time, then it's time to consider if your child is on the right team for your family's values
Encourage and Reframe
Most athletes learn early how to break down their plays and process their ability. It is one of many values to having your child play team sports. They build the executive function of self assessment and awareness. However, a loss does create a moment for most people who are driven by the win of a game to get caught up in feelings of regret and negative thought patterns. Some athletes can get caught up in that, so the best way to help your child out of one of those moments is to reframe the experience of the loss, for you to tolerate and educate about the feelings around a loss. It is important to speak to your child about the mistakes they made while playing as learning opportunities for future games. Be careful not to be fatalistic. Always speak of resets and next time. The beauty of team sports is that there is always a next time to get that move just right!
Manage your energy and mood
If your child loves playing their sport please remember that their mistakes while playing and the loss means more to them than to you. It is important to be mindful of your own disappointment or frustration and place your child’s emotions above your own. This is hard to do because you are a parent. At a sporting event for your child you hold the yearning for the team to win and you also hold the fear of your child hurting and feeling disappointed if they lose. This is a big reason why you may be losing your emotional and energetic sense of self. So make sure that you are at your optimal best (i.e. slept, fed, emotionally balanced) when you head out to see your child play or practice. Believe this. Wait until you are calm to give your child feedback. If you need to speak to the coach and your child sees it, be mindful to be clear with your child that your concern was with the adults and not their performance. If you are not explicit about this your child may take on your frustration towards the coach and make it about themselves.
I hope this will be useful for your continued support of your athlete. I’ll see you out in the stands!