By Andreas Themistocleous, APC Sports Consulting Ltd
Perhaps it comes as an insult, but the reality is that we, parents, should learn to be our children’s top fans. Not to suggest that any parent would want anything than the absolute best for their children, but the defining difference in this debate is the roadmap to becoming that top fan. This article debates the true meaning of a top fan, which most probably differs from common practice and perceptions in youth sports of today’s world.
We all have seen different types of parents throughout our involvement and experience in sports. The parent who is the coach on the sideline. The parent who is the opponent’s worst nightmare. The parent who always blames the referee decisions. The parent who wants to control the decision making for the athlete; the one who dreams of that pro contract and the lucrative lifestyle that follows for the entire family. I could go on and on, but I am guessing that pictures keep popping in your mind as you read through and you are probably smiling already in affirmation.
A top fan is the parent who allows the young athlete to experiment with sport participation; meaning that the athlete gets to choose which sport or sports to engage in and is allowed to navigate through it in its initial steps with three very basic goals: a) enjoy sport participation and have fun, b) practice an active lifestyle, c) socialize and evolve.
A top fan is the parent who is in frequent contact with coaches and pedagogists, showing interest and being there to support, without interfering and without looking to be actively involved. That top fan is the person who engages in discussion with their athlete and allows room for discussion, growth, expression of feelings and so on; not to dictate attitudes or performance, not to give instructions or belittle others, but to show love and support and ensure that the athlete is physically and emotionally on the right track.
A top fan is the parent who does the “dirty work”; Car pools, laundry, supermarket, apparel shop, not necessarily spending more than afforded, but being consistent in meeting the athlete’s needs. Being present at games is one of the most important qualities of a top fan. But cheering on is a trap. In contrast, being a silent observer is always better. Afterall, you can get your say at home, or on the way back. Show your athlete the meaning of true respect. If you want to be vocal, shout out “good call ref” when the call is against your team. Applaud the effort and performance of the opposition. Refrain from any discussion (loud or not) that refers to coaching matters…That’s a top fan in my book.
Take care of your child’s education and life plan. Sports is the best secondary thing in life and most probably your child will turn pro in something other than sports. How well prepared are you for that? Support your athlete’s balance in life. School, sports, social life, relationships, love, extracurricular activities, even the occasional “break” from it. Your athlete needs support, love and guidance; guidance is not the reflection of your beliefs or desires, rather the reinforcement of their own quest to find answers and taking care of loose ends while they are looking the other way. That’s what a top fan does.
Building character is another element of the job description. Honest, hard-working, a leader within the group, respecting others, honoring diversity, all defining characteristics of a good human being, but also transferable skills that pay dividends on the playing field, in the job market and in life in general. Teaching them skills of this magnitude makes a top fan more valuable than a big checking account. Speaking of money, however, it’s also useful to teach them the true meaning of financial freedom, through planning, through saving, through respecting of how hard money is truly earned.
Even I, reading back, wonder how difficult of a job it is to be this top fan for your athlete child. It’s like juggling kitchen knives while crossing the summer’s thorny forest trail barefooted. A parent’s daily routine…