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6 Ways Parents Can Support Their Youth Athlete

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Sport is an opportunity for kids to learn skills for life – it should be enjoyed.

There are sporting kids. There are sporting coaches. But the critical people in the sporting equation are sporting parents.

A supportive sporting parent, who understands their roles and responsibilities in the sporting life of their child can be an asset – to the child and the child’s coach. A sporting parent who is over bearing, overly judgmental and who places pressures and expectations on their child can be a destructive influence on their child’s life.

Sport can be a wonderful, stimulating, challenging and rewarding experience. Getting fit, having fun, learning new skills, making new friends, mastering movement. Sport is a fantastic environment for children and adults.

It can also be a mine-field of emotions, disappointments and conflicts as parents try to help their kids become all they can be and realise their sporting potential.

Parents can be important pieces of the sporting performance puzzle and the support, nurturing and unconditional love of a parent is as valuable to a young athlete as is coaching, the right equipment and hard training.

As a sporting parent, do your “job” to the best of your ability, that is:

It’s a Performance Partnership and anything is possible when all “performance partners” do their respective jobs with passion, determination, commitment, dedication and integrity.

If you are raising young athletes, the best thing you can do to help is to support them.

Any sport will benefit your child as it teaches leadership, patience, discipline, and coordination. It also builds mental and physical strength.

But as a parent, how does one support a young athlete? What role should you play in their sports life? Here are some of the ways you can help your young athlete and become a winning parent.

Emotional Support

Young athletes are naturally competitive, so most of the time they want to win and they want to be the best. But it is inevitable that they may sometimes lose or feel that someone else is better than them at their sports. This is where you can come in to encourage and motivate your child. Motivation and encouragement don’t mean you have to tell them they’re the best or console them by bad-mouthing their opponents. Motivation means saying your child that losing is part of the game and there is no shame in defeat.

Motivation also means helping your child accept failures by guiding them to focus on what they can improve. You can encourage them to practice more. You can also take them to classes or to a sports coach who can better help them improve their performance.

Nutritional Support

Athletic children need all the best nutrition they can get to nourish their minds and bodies for optimal performance. That’s because no amount of training and practice will be useful unless the child has a healthy body that will be able to meet the physical demands of the sport.

As a parent, you have the power to influence the food they eat. This is a little bit tricky though, especially if the child has not been introduced early on to healthy foods and eating habits. If you force your child to eat only nutritious foods that they don’t like, he may feel deprived. The solution is balance and moderation. Let them what they want once in a while, as long as they consistently eat healthy, balanced meals composed of nutritious foods majority of the time.

Another thing you can do is make nutritious food attractive to children. There are many recipes online on how to cook nutritious foods in the form of snacks children love. Changing some ingredients with nutritious food does the trick. Also paying attention to how you present meals can help. Fun bento boxes, for example, make vegetables and fruits more appealing to children who don’t usually eat these.

Financial Support

Provide them with financial support. Young athletes may want to have gears that help improve their performance. They may want to sign up for sports clinics or workshops. It will also help them if they train under the guidance of a sports coach.

Don’t be a helicopter parent

Finally, don’t embarrass them by being overprotective or by involving yourself too much in your child’s activities. One of the many problems that coaches have with sports for children or teens is the number of parents who go overboard with their “supportiveness”.

Here are signs of helicopter parenting to avoid:

. Fighting the coach for not letting their child in the game.

. Fighting other parents from another team.

. Fighting the children in the other team.

. Fighting the referee.

. Fighting the other team’s coach.

The above behavior does not support a child athlete; in fact, those behaviors may push your child to quit sports. Support your child by consoling them when they lose, letting them understand that you are still proud of them even when they fail.  Tell them they can still improve and win next time.

Simply put, just be a supportive parent that an athletic child will be proud to have. Love and accept your child for who they are and what they can do. Use sports as a means to teach them values that will help them in the future, such as integrity, discipline, humility, and courage, and not as a means to fulfil your own dreams for your child. Your child will thank you for the love and support you have given him.

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