Why My Child Participates in Sports

From the desk of Wally Dawkins, Athletic Director:

The emotions associated with our children participating in athletics run far and wide. The joy of winning a big game or championship, or when your child has an incredible game statistically can quickly change. Whether it be the position your child is playing, the playing time itself, or your son or daughter’s performance, your joy can become frustration. Other times you feel “relief” that your child didn’t get hurt or maybe successfully got through a big game. Regardless, all of us can relate when we think to the emotions we experience due to our son or daughter playing a sport.

Have you ever wondered what emotions your child may experience? The pressures that are associated with playing in high school, college, and even middle school athletics can be intense and endless.

Have you ever asked yourself what role you as a parent should play in your child’s athletic endeavors? When our kids were younger, we acted as the “guardian” or “caretaker and supervisor.”  Signing them up for teams.  Taking them to practice.  Teaching and instructing them on the fundamentals of the game, and even the strategies of the game itself.

Parents tend to necessarily assume these roles when dealing with younger players, but then seem to have trouble relinquishing these duties as the child gets older. I recently read a piece that advised parents to consider taking on the role of solely  being a “consultant”, once a child gets further along in their career. It was also in this same article that the #1 response from athletes, when asked what they wish their parents said to them after the game was “I love to watch you play.”

As parents, we should think about this and compare it to what we actually say when our child concludes a contest. Do we first quote statistics?  Do we first critique performance?  Do we criticize? The answer to how we choose our responses may rest in the reasons we want our children to participate in sports.

The three best reasons for your child to play a sport are as follows:

  1.        For the love of the game and the enjoyment of the sport.
  2.        To belong to a team or group that will teach life lessons and form lasting relationships with teammates and coaches.
  3.        To represent their school in a manner that instills pride in the name of the institution is worn proudly across the front of the jersey.

If that is why your child is playing middle school or high school sports, then your first response to them after the game will probably be something similar to “I love to watch you play” and it will be an easy and honest thing to say.

If those are actually the three best reasons to play a sport, then what would the three worst reasons be for participating?

  1.        To receive personal recognition.
  2.        To receive an athletic scholarship.
  3.        To try and improve self-worth with the parent based on an outstanding athletic performance.

If your child is playing for those reasons, then immediately quoting statistics, critiquing their performance, or complaining about the plays they did or didn’t make, may be some of the first things you say to your child after the game.

The joy that athletes can receive and the life lessons they will learn, as well as the relationships they will form if they are participating in sports for the right reasons is priceless. When you honestly consider it, the “lifelong” value of these far exceeds the value of recognition…or scholarships…or how good they feel when they score the most points. I think as parents, we need to be aware of our child’s emotional experiences when they are playing, what role we assume in their development, and why we want our children to participate in sports.

Remember…if the first thing you say to your child after a game isI love to watch you play”, then you are probably well on your way to your son or daughter having a healthy experience while participating in athletics.

What are some other helpful comments we can make to our kids after their games?