10 Ways Parents Can Help Their Kids Play Their Best
- Verbally & Nonverbally communicate you believe in them. Great parents believe in their kids and communicate it regularly. You can TELL them and SHOW them that you believe they can do anything. This means you need to make an effort to show up and be there for their games (as much as you can). It’s hard for a kid to know you believe in them if you are not there.
- Verbally & Nonverbally communicate that you accept them, love them, & are proud of them NO MATTER WHAT. Let them know that their fun, happiness, and enjoyment are more important than winning and perfection. If you focus on their happiness and enjoyment, it might increase their success rate anyways because they are enjoying themselves. You can be happy for them if their team wins a game, but don’t treat them better for a win. You love and accept them no matter what.
- Praise their performance, not their outcome. You want to compliment any skills they did particularly well or a new skill that they finally mastered. For instance, if your kid scores a goal or gets a save in goal, but they still lose the event, don’t even focus on the outcome – instead compliment and praise their improvement. You want them to remember that they are improving, not that they are improving, but they still lost. Plus, Complementing them too much for winning teaches them that winning is all that matters, and by default losing disappoints you. Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest player of this generation, said “there are more important things in life than winning or losing a game.” Your kid constantly improving in soccer and in life is one of those things. Focus on their effort, performance, and improvement rather than their wins and losses.
- If you do want to give your kid some constructive criticism, ask them first. You can simply say, “Would you mind if I told you what I think?” This gives your kid a sense of power in the conversation and prepares them to hear some criticism. You can also ask thought provoking questions like: “Can you name one thing you think you could have done better in the game and 3 things you think you did well?”
- Avoid always talking about soccer at home. Instead, let your kid bring up the topic. That way, you know they want to and are open to talking about it. That way, your home can be seen as a place of peace, positivity, and mental recovery, especially after a hard practice or game.
- Just be positive and supportive at all times. Most of the time that is what your kid wants and needs. When in doubt, just show up and tell your kid “I love to watch you play”.
- If you read news articles about other teams or see rankings of other teams, try to avoid talking about it with your kid. They don’t need to know if the team that beat them is ranked first in the state. It’s just not necessary and puts salt in the wound sometimes.
- It’s really important to know your role. The players play, the coaches coach, the refs ref – and as a parent, you should parent. Try to avoid overlapping these roles. Let each adult and kid involved play their role and it’ll be more enjoyable for everyone involved.
- Don’t make a particular game “special” or hype it up too much. This adds extra pressure on the kid especially because they pick up this mentality from you. The goal is to treat all types of competitions the same, so that a “more important” game won’t psyche out your player too much and they can stay focused.
- Finally, when in doubt of what to do, just give your kid some space. This might be hard to do but most of the time it’s the right thing to do. If your kid’s team just lost an important game, give them some room to process it. But you can ask them, “Do you want to talk about it?” and if they do, then they will. But if they don’t want to, don’t push them to. Just tell them, “I know you’re upset right now, but I just want you to know that it’ll be ok.”
Note: These tips are important to remember because even athletes at the highest levels are aware of their parent’s judgments and critiques because we all want to make our parents proud. But just know that your role in their sporting career is really important, most of the time you are their biggest fan but can also be their biggest critic. Just keep these tips in mind so that you can stay a fan instead of a critic.