It’s getting close to that time of year when we resolve to make positive changes in the upcoming year: New Year’s Resolution time! Here is a resolution to add to your list. It is not one that will help you lose weight or get fit physically, but it can make all the difference in building a strong family unit. In 2013, promise that when it comes to your kid’s sports experiences, you won’t neglect the small things.
As parents of young athletes, it is very easy to focus on our child’s big athletic achievements, such as state championships, league and tournament wins, and selection to all star teams. These things are great, and accomplishing them brings great joy and happiness. They are hard not to celebrate!
All too often, though, in celebrating only this type of achievement, we give less credence to the small victories throughout the journey that are crucial components of our child’s personal and athletic development. It is through these smaller achievements that the true benefits of sports are gained, and the most important life lessons are learned. When we turn our attention away from the outcomes, and focus on the process of athletic development, we give our children ownership of their athletic experience. This develops young athletes who are more committed, motivated, and passionate about their sports.
Here are a few of the small things that you should pay attention to, and celebrate, in 2013 and beyond:
- Improved Competence: “Your free throw shooting is so much better. All the work you are putting in is paying off. Your coach would not have let you shoot the technical free throws last year, but now he counts on you.” Statements like this are very empowering for your young athletes, because they focus upon factors that are within the control of your young athlete, such as effort and time spent in practice. By acknowledging the hours he has spent deliberately practicing and honing his craft, you emphasize that his commitment and diligence have been worthwhile. You tell him that his passion and dedication is most important, to you as well as to him. By measuring and celebrating your child’s improvement in sports, you help him to focus on the effort and the process of getting better.
- Growing Confidence: “I saw that you volunteered to cover the other team’s best player. That takes guts. Your team and your coach needed someone to step up today. I am very proud that it was you.” Healthy sports environments help your children become confident in athletics, and in life. Acknowledge your child’s improved confidence, and let her know how it has helped her become a better performer. This will free your child from the fear of failure, and allow her to challenge herself by trying new things, and taking healthy risks. Many of today’s highest achievers can trace their confidence and courage back to their youth sports experience, and having parents and coaches who believed in them. Be sure that your child knows you believe in her by acknowledging her growing self esteem.
- Time Together: Youth sport often compels you and your children to be in the same car or hotel room quite often. Some parents ignore this time, and allow their kids to put on their IPod, watch movies, or disengage completely. These parents often complain how sport never allows for family time. On the other hand, parents who take advantage of this time create shared moments with their kids that build a strong relationship and family unit. They trade stories about their daily lives, about hopes and dreams, about friends and family. They take short hikes on the way home from a game, or just share an ice cream and a laugh. Be present with your kids during sports travel, and you will build lasting family bonds and a lifetime of shared memories.
- Enjoyment, both yours and theirs: All high achievers must enjoy what they are doing in order to continue with their commitment. Both children and parents can be very competitive and critical when it comes to sports, which can take the fun away. One way to make sure kids continue to enjoy playing is to let them know that your love for them is not tied to the result of a game, or a bad performance. By telling your kids how much you enjoy watching them play, and demonstrating your unconditional love with both words and actions, you will free kids from feeling responsible for your happiness. This will improve your relationship with them. It will also allow you to become a trusted confidant, and give them both positive and critical feedback about their performance when the time is right.
In 2013, let’s all resolve to focus on the process of becoming a better athlete, instead of the outcomes of our child’s games and events. If we do, our children will take ownership of their sports experience, and have a far greater chance of becoming high achieving athletes. Most importantly, it will allow us to build relationships based upon unconditional love, trust, and open communication with our children. Focus on the small things in 2013, and the big things will take care of themselves.