Sunday, 8 July 2007

Being good parents on the sidelines

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Yesterday I signed my son up for soccer. I inwardly cringed when he said he wanted to join a soccer team because, while I love the sport and I know he'll have a great time, heaven forbid I become one of those over-bearing, far-too-involved soccer moms. My adult nephews participated in travel soccer leagues (they were both really, really good) and my dear sisters, the boys' mothers, were both examples of the quintessential "soccer mom" and all the negative connotations the tongue-in-cheek phrase implies. One sister was thoroughly convinced that every referee was against her son's team and all the other teams cheated. My other sister swore there was a conspiracy to have one player on her son's team get more play time than her son. The funny thing was my nephews were both great players, had lots of fun, and never once complained about bad refs, cheating teams, or equal play time. They just loved to play soccer.

I can imagine that, this fall, as I watch my son from the sidelines I'm going to want him to have completely fair treatment. I'm going to be his biggest cheerleader and it would probably be very easy to get a bit over-zealous. But, as this article cautions, meddling parents can take some of the fun away from youth activities. It's important that those of us on the sidelines are good sports, too.

A recent study shows that most coaches feel that parents play a critical role in their child's athletic development but they also feel that 36% of the parents they deal with have a negative impact on their children. It's important for parents to encourage participation in athletics (team sports or other activities), applaud their child's efforts (even if the result wasn't so good), and reduce the focus on winning. While a little competition isn't a bad thing for kids, maintaining a balance is important for promoting a life-long interest in physical activity.
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