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Positive Sport Parenting Contributes to the holistic development of young athletes

Jan 15, 2020 | Athlete Development

By Anna Kyprianou – APC Sports Consulting Ltd

Sports parenting is an art!” – Lou Ann Selsky.

The holistic model of athlete development focuses on the player and the player’s athletic, personal, emotional, psychological, academic, social and financial development.  A holistic view of developing athletes contributes to the personal growth and maturity of the athlete and it prepares athletes not just for being successful at their sport but for being successful in life after sport as well. 

The parents of athletes have a tremendous role to play in their children’s development and, positive sport parenting enhances and contributes to the holistic model of athlete development.  Family is said to be the backbone for any successful young adult. The support, love, care and guidance given to children nowadays, play a vital role in shaping their character and preparing them for the life ahead.  Understanding the true meaning of this very demanding leadership role called parenting, can better prepare parents to adapt to it. Parents should strive to encourage and motivate their children, fostering a development culture and environment, whilst promoting good behavior and true sportsmanship.

Imagine the peer pressure surrounding young athletes today; think of the sport culture and how that creates expectations, long-term goals and needs that are not at all easy to be met. Parents are by nature the first point of contact, support and approval-seeking for their young athletes and as such they should make sure that they are all that and even more; they should make it a point to lighten the pressure and keep these teenagers on the right track following the process below:

The 5 Step Process

  1. Provide emotional support
  2. Provide enthusiastic leadership
  3. Emphasize effort and personal improvement
  4. Allow for independence
  5. Invest in the journey and not the destination

Parents of athletes should make an effort to be involved, walking that fine line between being overly demanding or too nurturing with their young ones.  On the other hand, they should also be aware that indiscriminate praise does not build self-esteem; hence, they need to maintain a balance to help their children understand the importance of a reward stemming from real effort.

Moreover, what makes a good sport parent is the effort he/she puts in knowing the team coach, showing respect and appreciation for the coaching staff, without interfering; discussion and exchange of ideas should always take place amongst parents and the coaching staff, as long as boundaries are set.   Additionally, sport parents should be aware that they role models for their athlete children and that the parents’ behavior is usually modelled after by their children.  Parents need to maintain a firm stand that kids should be loyal to their team, their coaches, and their collective goals. Perhaps the most important characteristic of positive sport parenting is to always remember that the parents’ dreams are not the same as those of their kids and under no reason should the parents try to realize their dreams through their kids.

A helpful code of conduct to ensure that parents are doing the best they can for the holistic development of their children-athletes has been formed by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.

The Code of Conduct for Parents of Athletes

  • I will remember that my child plays sport for his or her enjoyment, not for mine.
  • I will encourage my child to play by the rules and to resolve conflicts without resorting to hostility or violence.
  • I will teach my child that doing one’s best is as important as winning, so that my child will never feel defeated by the outcome of a game/event.
  • I will make my child feel like a winner every time by offering praise for competing fairly and trying hard.
  • I will never ridicule or yell at my child for making a mistake or losing a competition.
  • I will remember that children learn best by example. I will applaud good players’ performances by both my child’s team and their opponents. I will not force my child to participate in sports.
  • I will never question the officials’ judgment or honesty in public.
  • I will support all efforts to remove verbal and physical abuse from children’s sporting activities.
  • I will respect and show appreciation for the coaches, understanding that I have a responsibility to be a part of my child’s development.
  • I agree to Play Fair.

The essence of sport participation at a young age requires an environment of growth and development. It is the parents’ responsibility to foster this environment, cultivate it within the household and help their kids embrace this process of growth in a healthy manner.

For more information on the role of parents in the development of their children athletes and how they can positively contribute to the holistic development of their young athletes, you may get in touch with us at [email protected].