Guide to Positive Sport Parenting
At Liberty Mutual Insurance, we believe kids can learn valuable life lessons when Positive Sport Parents come together with Positive Coaches to foster environments that promote and display good sportsmanship.
We’ve partnered with the youth sports experts from Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) to create this Guide to provide resources, advice, tools and tips to help you – the youth sport parent – help your child get the most out of their youth sports experience.
In the following pages, you’ll learn more about how to help your child set goals for the season, how to foster a Mastery Approach rather than a focus on winning and losing, how to fill your athlete’s Emotional Tanks (even in tough situations) and how to teach your athletes to Honor the Game and represent the best of good sportsmanship.
Sports Safety for Parents
The saying goes: “It takes a village.” As Positive Sport Parent, you are part of the village to ensure your child’s safety. Positive Sport Parents take an active role in ensuring the safety of their child as well as the other children on the field, ice, and mat or in the pool.
Here are things to consider as you work to ensure your child’s safety in youth sports:
• The Overall Reputation of the Program and Coaches. Shop around. Ask friends, family, and neighbors. Search online for information, news or ratings of the various youth sports organizations you are considering. Meet the leaders of those organizations and the specific coaches to whom your child may be assigned. If anything does not seem quite right, trust your gut and do not go there.
• Weather. If conditions are too hot, cold or stormy (where lightning strikes are a risk), adjust. Some coaches have higher tolerance for these conditions than others. If you feel the weather creates a risk, contact the coach and excuse your child from practice.
• Field/Court Conditions. When dropping your child off at practice, occasionally take a look around the grounds for broken glass on a blacktop, moisture on a court or holes or bare patches in a field.
• Equipment. Make sure your child’s equipment is in working order – no splintered sticks, cracked helmets, ill-filling pads or misshapen mouth guards. Occasionally check the organization’s equipment for things like worn padding in mats or exposed corners on goals.
• Hydration. Make sure your child is hydrated, especially in extreme heat and humidity. Help your child remember a water bottle even if you think the coach will provide water at a practice or game. Ask your child if the coach allows sufficient water breaks, especially in hot and humid conditions.
• CPR and First Aid. Make sure your child’s coaches and any other parent volunteers at practices are trained in CPR and First Aid.
• Concussions. Head safety and concussions have become an ever-growing concern. Ask your child’s coach about his or her preparedness for dealing with concussions. If you have any suspicion of a concussion or other head injury, get medical attention for your child and ensure there is no return to play until a doctor clears it- no matter how badly your child wants to play.
• Rides Home. Make sure you are comfortable with how your child is getting to and from practices and games. Ask about school, team or league policies in advance. Talk to your fellow parents about carpooling and ensure that everyone who is participating has the right kind of vehicle coverage to ensure your child’s safety in case of a breakdown or worse, an accident.
• Communication. Have a full list of contact information for your child’s coaches, and if possible some or all of the other parents involved with your child’s team.
We know this is not the most fun, exciting aspect of being a Positive Sport Parent, but if you take these ideas to heart, you will be much more able to relax and enjoy your child’s youth sports experience.
One of the most valuable life lessons that sports can teach our kids is the concept of how to set, pursue and achieve goals, and how to deal with the times when we fall short of our goals.
100 Point Exercise
Positive Sport Parents can help their kids learn the lessons of goal-setting right from the start of the season. The experts at Positive Coaching Alliance recommend the 100 Point Exercise Tool as a great way to kick off this discussion.
You and your children each have 100 points to allocate to various goals for the upcoming season. Goals could be things like having fun, improving fitness, making new friends, winning, and learning new skills. You may want to suggest some of these categories to your children, but also you’re your kids to come up with their own categories.
Separately, you and your children write down how you allocate your 100 points and when you are finished you then share them with each other. You might be surprised at the similarities and differences. For example, you may learn how much emphasis your child places on winning, and that may lead to a discussion about keeping wins and losses in perspective.
Consider drilling-down on topics to really understand what your kids are thinking. For example, if you are discussing the topic of winning, you can ask, “How do you feel when you win?” and “How do you feel when you lose?” and — most importantly in terms of teaching an impactful life lesson – “What are some ways we can work on to help you better cope with a loss or other setback?”
What we like best about this exercise is the amount and type of conversation it can create between you and your child. As Positive Sport Parent, you’re leveraging the enthusiasm your kids have for sports to really dig in on some important topics.
What Types of Goals to Set
With the 100-Point Exercise in hand, you and your child can now craft specific goals for the season. . Some will be quantitative and others qualitative. For example, “I’d like to end the season with at least one new friend” or “My goal is to come away from each game feeling like I had the most fun I possibly could.”
As a Positive Sport Parent, try to emphasize goals that pertain to the “life lessons” aspects of sports. Chances are that players and coaches will establish their own goals for sports performance, such as improving skills or achieving certain statistics. And while you may be involved in helping your children pursue those goals — say, in backyard practices — you are irreplaceable as a source of guidance in processing the life lessons available through sports.
Setting these goals with your child gives you something to return to throughout the season. When you debrief a practice or a game, do not forget to ask “Did you have fun?” or “Which of your teammates are starting to feel like friends?”
That approach reminds your children that there is more to sports than just wins, losses and statistics, which may be important in encouraging them to stay with a sport and continue trying their hardest even if their scoreboard results are less than desired. As long as your children see progress toward some of the goals they set before the season started, they should have some feeling of success and view the experience as worthwhile and enjoyable.
Staying Focused On Pursuing and Achieving Goals
Positive Sport Parents can help kids stay focused on pursuing – and ultimately achieving – the goals they have set for themselves for the season. As you watch your child work hard against these goals, you may need to offer tremendous encouragement in the face of disappointing results: “It must have hurt you to miss that shot, but remember you are the kind of person who keeps trying. That attitude and some more practice will help you toward your goals.”
When you stay focused on the goals that your child set out for the season, so too will they stay focused and put the proper context on the ups-and-downs of the season.
At the end of the season, pull out that 100-Point Exercise Sheet and remind your athlete that, regardless of the win-loss record, they achieved their goals that they set out for themselves. The learned a new skill, they made a new friend, they had fun during the season. Celebrate the success and talk about where they may have fell short and how their effort measured up against their goals.
It is one of the greatest feelings in the world to work hard and achieve a goal. It can be a horrible feeling to work hard and fall short. Helping your children experience and navigate this range of emotions is among the most important things you will do as a Positive Sport Parent. And, as long as you continually communicate with your children throughout the process from goal-setting to goal-achieving (or not), you are using the youth sports experience to teach your children critical life lessons.