Having fun in youth sports should not be the only goal, but it’s a very important part of the game.
However, every season some very subtle enemies lurk around the ball field and the court, just waiting to rob you and your child of the fun of playing sports. If you meet one of these foes, be quick to conquer and defeat!
The Enemy of Perfectionism
An athlete that strives for excellence is working to excel, seeking superiority in order to distinguish themselves as a player.
All three of my kids fought the enemy of perfectionism at various points in their sports careers. My youngest was especially hard on herself. I watched her emotionally beat herself up for making simple mistakes and I will tell you that it did not help her play better at all.
When she learned to seek excellence, instead of perfection, she was able to learn from mistakes and improve, instead of dwelling on what she should or should not have done.
And talk about fun-suckers! A perfectionist athlete seriously struggles to keep sports fun because they are so busy scolding themselves for the littlest mistake.
As far as you, Mom and Dad, lose the perfectionist expectations for your child, and encourage them to strive for excellence instead. If they can learn that, they will enjoy the game much more.
The Enemy of Obsessing to Win
Winning is fun, and winning is a goal for every team. But in youth sports, winning should not be the only objective.
I like how John O’Sullivan from Changing the Game Project says it:
Our obsession with winning is the enemy of excellence in youth sports! We have turned our attention away from developing excellence in our athletes, and now only focus on immediate success.
Coaches and parents who are more concerned about the final score than they are about the safety, growth and development of every player on the team are feeding this enemy of obsessing to win.
Players who play to win is one thing, and has nothing to do with coaches who only coach to win, and organizations who create environments focused on winning and not development. Their approach actually robs kids of their athletic education, and sets them up for failure later in life. (John O’Sullivan)
The Enemy of Fear
This enemy comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be the fear of failing, the fear of getting hurt, the fear of disappointing a parent, the fear of displeasing a coach, or the fear of peer disapproval.
The best way to help your child get over fear is to encourage them to face it. Talk to your child about what they fear and how they can face it. Listen to them explain and help them come up with a plan to conquer that fear. I can’t tell you how to do that because there’s no one-size-fits-all answer; every athlete is different and as their parent, you can help them sort out the fears and the answers to dealing with them.
The Enemy of Control
This enemy is very sneaky because it often disguises itself as “protection” or “concern” or “just wanting what’s best for my child”.
The best thing for sports parents to do is to give up trying to control the things they can’t control, and give up controlling the things they think they can but that they shouldn’t.
Yes, you can maneuver and manipulate situations for your child, but is that really the best way for them to get started in life, thinking that something is nearby ready to swoop in and save the day?
And then there are the things that parents try to control–playing time, what position their child plays, how the coach coaches–but really can’t and when they do, it only causes frustration and angst for parents and child and everyone else involved.
Face Your Enemies
Know your enemies. Face them down. Don’t let them take over your child’s youth sports experience. Don’t let them camp in your head and in your house. Take back the game from the enemy and let your child know the joy of playing sports.
Are you battling these enemies? If you need help, please reach out to me. I’m a life coach for sports parents and I can help you come up with a battle plan. Contact me.