There are many differing views on what the responsibilities are for parents when it comes to their children in sport. The following are the responsibilities we have found to be the most helpful and true in our experience:
Ensure our children are well rested before playing sport – As a parent it can be challenging to get children into bed on time. It is a great idea to set up a routine that on the night before ‘sport day’ they understand they need their rest and must be in bed on time.
Ensure our children are well nourished – This is key to ensure children have energy to enjoy their sport. It includes a good sized healthy breakfast before playing sport and lots of hydration. The children should also bring water with them to the game to ensure they stay well hydrated throughout.
Arrive with our children to their sport on time – Arriving when the coach has asked them to and with enough time to participate in the team talks, warm ups and whatever else they need to do pregame is important as it reduces stress for the child and increases their enjoyment of the experience.
Purchase the right gear for our children – This doesn’t mean buying the most expensive equipment on the market but ensuring children have the right fundamental equipment at a price the family can afford. For example the correct shoes, socks, safety equipment and uniforms. This helps to avoid embarrassment for the child and also ensures they can do their best.
Stay and watch our children play – This is often overlooked and not always possible with the many commitments of modern day life. If it is possible, it is a great to watch them play because it is important to them and ensures they feeling supported.
Support our children whether they win or lose – It is important it let our kids know they are supported regardless of the outcome or what happened on the field or court. This includes not coming down hard on them if they haven’t won and also not going over the top if they have. Ensure focus remains on enjoying the contest not the result.
Understand our children’s objectives – What does our child want out of their sport? Do they just want to play with their mates, do they want to compete, do they want to do the best that they can or do they not really want to play at all? Understanding this allows parents to best support our children’s goals. For example if they would like to compete, they may like to do extra training sessions or advanced training camps. Asking our children how we can support them also gives them the opportunity to voice how they are feeling, what they need and how they would like to be supported. This helps to ensure we don’t embarrass our kids by being too over the top but still provide them with all the support they need.
Leave as much coaching as you can to the coach – Making comments on game day can undermine the coaches who have made a commitment to coach the team. It doesn’t set a good example for the players and is not supportive of the club.
Don’t reward unsportsmanlike behaviour – If our child is being unsportsmanlike on the field it is important as a parent to correct this behaviour and support the coach if they are also helping to manage the behaviour. This teaches children the difference between right and wrong in sport.
Remain realistic about our child’s involvement in sport – Many parents unknowingly try to encourage their children to achieve goals they themselves wished they’d achieved. It is very common to see parents pushing their children towards ambitions that the child doesn’t share. It is our job to support our children through their experience of sport and help them to enjoy the day how they choose to do it.
Report abusive behaviour from other parents or coaches – As a parent we need to ensure our children are playing in a safe environment and not leave it to others to report inappropriate behaviour. If you see any behaviour you feel is ‘out of line’ see a club official and report it.
In our experience, these responsibilities can help to create a positive and enjoyable experience for both children and parents in sport and are an important discussion for any club.