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7 Ways to Support Your Child in Sports

Kids playing soccer; girl chasing boy with soccer ball

Whether you didn’t get playing time, were a star, or never much enjoyed them, sports memories are almost inescapable parts of childhood in the United States. In the wake of the pandemic, sports likely look a little different than you’re used to, and that’s okay. Your kids will still find joy in sports when you show them how to (safely) have a good time. Check out these seven important considerations to take into account as a parent of a child playing sports!

Does your child want to play?

Ask this question before doing anything else. Offer your child options, just because they don’t like soccer, doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy an individual sport like tennis. You can also offer other opportunities for dedicated movement, like dance, yoga, and rock climbing. 

Plan to be there, When you can

No question, it’s a privilege to be able to attend each of your child's basketball games start to finish, but that isn’t the reality for most of us. Rather than wishful thinking, be realistic when talking to your child about which games you can attend, and when they might have to carpool. This way you’ll be modeling reliability and follow-through, and setting yourself up for success in meeting their expectations. 

“Learn the Trade”

Do your best to learn about the sports your child likes. Learn the rules, sports etiquette, and get familiar with the flow of the game. Not only will you have a good time, but your child will feel supported by your investment in their sport, AND you can model appropriate sportsmanship and interaction. 

Find YOUR Parent Teammates

Your child has a built in social support on their team - and as a parent on the sidelines, you do too! Get to know the other parents and see what you have in common. Being able to share a laugh and enjoy your weekends spent watching your kids play sports will make it easy to support your child by showing up and gives you a support system of your own!

Their Experience isn’t Yours

Your child will experience sports differently than you. Winning may or may not be as important to your child as it is to you. They may feel fulfilled from the social interactions, movement, improving a skill, spending time outside, or just being there to support their friends. Recognize that it’s okay for everyone to enjoy sports differently, no matter the score

Put Anger on the Bench

Research tells us that when parents get angry at their child, coach, referees, teammates, or other parents, your child is less likely to enjoy sports and less likely to feel supported. If any conflicts arise, use them as an opportunity to model appropriate communication and sportsmanship.

Find Wins after Losses (for you & your child)

You will probably deeply empathize with your child if they are upset because of a tough loss, lack of playing time, authoritative coaching styles, or injuries - and that’s an important parenting strength! Sitting with your child through the difficult moments shows them that you love them no matter what happens on or off the field. Your child will learn to develop technical skills from their coach and team, but you can help foster resilience by pointing to larger learning moments, like helping an injured player off the field, being a team player, or the value of communication on the pitch. 

Because of the pandemic, your child's experience with sports will be different than yours. By modeling acceptance of the situation, your child will also embrace the experience and build resilience for all types of life's challenges!

Reference: These strategies are drawn from a 2015 report on Parenting in youth sport: A position paper on parenting expertise and background on sports is drawn from the podcast Maintenance Phase

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