123rf used with permission
Source: 123rf used with permission

The messages parents send their children about sports set the tone for how young athletes approach their sports involvement.

If your messages are about results, expectations, and pressure, three bad things will happen. First, your children will crumble under the weight of these burdensome messages, perform poorly, and not achieve their sports goals. Second, their athletic lives will be sources of stress, negativity, and fear. Third, your children will come to associate these unpleasant experiences with you as their parents and they may come to feel anger, resentment, and even hatred toward you for turning their sports into something so aversive.

In contrast, if you send the seven messages that I describe in this vlog segment, you create for your young athletes a decidedly different starting point for their sports experiences. First, they will feel free to perform their best with courage, confidence, and commitment, and without fear, doubt, or worry. Second, they will perceive their athletic lives as fun, joyful, and enriching. Third, your children will connect these amazing experiences with you and will feel love and gratitude for giving them this special opportunity.

The seven messages include:

  1. Give your best effort. If you can instill one habit in your young athletes, it is to work hard and do the best they can at every opportunity. This simple habit is essential for success in sports and life.
  2. Be a good sport. Aside from finding some degree of success in their athletic lives, you want your children to gain healthy values from their sports participation, one of which is to follow the rules and be respectful of everyone involved.
  3. Have fun. If your children aren’t enjoying their sports involvement, they should probably find some other activity that is more fulfilling to them.
  4. Support your teammates. Being a part of a team is about establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. The lessons that your children will learn from being a good teammate will serve them in family, school, and career.
  5. Listen to your coaches. As your children grow, they will have the opportunity to learn from those with experience and wisdom. This resource requires respect and attention. Practicing this skill can begin with their sport coaches.
  6. If you win, that's just icing on the cake. Though it is fun and validating for your young athletes to succeed, winning is not the purpose of youth sports. As such, you should downplay its value and focus on the healthy values, attitudes, beliefs, skills, and habits that your children can learn from their sports involvement that will serve them so well in all aspects of their lives.
  7. We love you! You cannot say “I love you” often enough. Before and after competitions, whether they won or lost, express your love for your children. This message alone will give them the confidence, sense of security, and comfort they need to approach their sports participation with vigor and gusto.

Your goal is to send these seven essential messages to your children early and often so that the messages become the healthy foundation for their athletic lives. If you can achieve this goal, you will give them a gift that will yield wonderful benefits to them in their sports in and in their lives beyond the field of play.

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