Seventy-five percent of kids who play organized sport stop participating before high school. It’s happening in small towns and big cities everywhere. So why is this happening and how can we turn this around?
First, it’s important to recognize why kids dropout of sports. Whether it’s baseball, soccer, football, or individual sports like skiing, running, golf, or cycling, some kids find their skill levels have plateaued. Some find that sport is not as much fun as it used to be. Some become interested in other things. These are all fine reasons for not being involved in sports.
What is unfortunate is when promising young athletes drop out of sport because the pressure to perform is overwhelming. Regardless of whether this pressure comes from parents, coaches, or the athletes themselves, through proper support, parents can reduce the harmful effects of pressure by providing opportunities for their children to grow, develop, and achieve maximum fulfillment and long-lasting sport enjoyment.
To be the best sport parent for your children, here are five support strategies you can implement now:
Support Strategy #1: Listen more than you speak.
When your children are ready to talk, be all ears. When you do speak, focus on being encouraging and positive. Tell your children that you loved watching them play. Also, do your best to learn the basic rules, skills, and strategies of your kids’ sports. With sport specific knowledge, you’ll be better able to engage in encouraging conversation that has nothing to do with winning and losing.
Support Strategy #2: Athletes first, winning second.
Winning will always be a central and innate focus in sports. To optimize your children’s athletic potential and prolong their sport participation, balance winning and the desire to beat others with additional measures of success including self-improvement, maximum effort and dedication, task mastery, and enjoying sports for its own sake.
Support Strategy #3: Ensure your children are properly prepared.
As a Doctor of Sport Psychology, my role is to mentally prepare my young athletes for practice and competition. You too can help your children prepare by teaching them to take proper care of their equipment, eat nutritional foods, get enough sleep, and arrive onsite on time.
Support Strategy #4: Develop a positive relationship with the coach.
When your children believe you trust the coach, the coach-athlete relationship grows stronger, ultimately leading to a more enjoyable and productive sport experience. Avoid undermining and second-guessing the coach by talking about team strategy and other team players, especially in front of your children. What is perfectly acceptable to discuss is mental and physical treatment of your children, their behavior on the team, as well as seeking advice on how to help your children improve.
Support Strategy #5: Let your children live their athletic dream.
Too often, parents’ goals for their children trump their children’s goals, causing unintended but unhealthy pressure to perform. Each year, ask your children what they want to achieve in sports. With new experiences, comes new goals and it is important to understand your children’s reasons for participating in sports so that you can support those initiatives and contribute to the best sporting experience your children could have.