Monday, July 7, 2014

Tips for Supporting Your Child in Sport

This is a different type of post topic, but I feel very relevant and important for all the kids and parents involved in squash. I am going to talk about as parents how you can best support your kid in squash. I am not writing this based on any current issue I'm having, so don't worry parents I'm not trying to single anyone out. Over the years I have seen countless parents become completely wound up in their child's performance, so much so that their body sways uncontrollably while they watch their child play and even some that get mad and verbally abuse the poor kid refereeing. Whatever you do, don't let it get to this stage. Your child will be embarrassed and worse yet is the behaviour you are deeming acceptable for your child.

Some kids don't want their parents watching them in practice or in competition. If this is the case, please accept it. It can be difficult for a child to tell this to their parent, but it is an important conversation to have even if you feel it doesn't apply to you. If you get really nervous, stressed out, upset, or even angry while watching your kid compete then I recommend you don't watch regardless of what your kid tells you. As much as you tell yourself that you are their supporting your child, you are actually hurting their development and they will pick up on how involved you become when they should be focusing on their game.

It can also be challenging for parents who think they know what's best for their kid. Sometimes this happens while your son or daughter is receiving a lesson or even in between games at a tournament. Normally a kid is pretty emotional between games and coaching your son or daughter during this time is almost always a no-no. Even if they don't admit it, I bet you they really don't appreciate it. Remember that the coach is the expert and let them do their job without interfeering.

I have seen a lot of children (of all ages) that when things aren't going well in a match look back out of the court for their parents. Almost as if they are relying on the encouragement or some justification for why things are going bad. I do not like it when kids look out of the court and into the crowd for anyone, especially when they are looking for their parents. So be sure not to talk to them between points, or even lip-sync words and do not nod your head or make any gestures to them.

I don't have kids and it's easy for me to say this, but letting them become independent is a part of growing up and their development as an athlete. Talking with them about the type of support they want can be very helpful for both of you. I recommend talking to the coach if you have any issues about this. Maybe you shouldn't be going to tournaments with your kids as they get older...this is something that you may enjoy doing, but the tournament isn't about you, it's about you kid. Obviously you support them financially to get where they are along with many other ways, but they don't need you holding their hands now that they are teenagers. Maybe they can go with a group of their friends. If you do need to bring them to the events let them have their own space at the event.

I would like to once again discuss how to cheer for your child. A kid can pick up your voice very easily while they are playing and I think that most kids focus on this instinctively. So try clapping for good rallies, regardless of who won the point. A lot of the kids just want to make their parents proud...they can't always win or play their best match, but they can always try their hardest and be good sports in winning or in defeat. I recommend basing your encouragement around these principles. If they want to have better results and improve this desire needs to be rooted internally and not from you. Let them decide that they want to put in the extra work and set challenging goals. Maybe this won't happen for your child, but if it doesn't, enforcing your goals and expectations onto them isn't going to hello. So as impossible as it sounds, try taking a step back and letting them grow and develop and fall in love with squash on their own.

If you're a parent, you play an important supporting role in youth sport, just be careful you don't overstep this role. A lot of parents are biased about their child. I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but not every kid is going to be a provincial, national, or world champion.  If they do that's fantastic, but don't put this type of pressure on your kid. When they end up falling short of your expectations they will feel as though they have let you down.

I know all parents just want the best for their children, but often have trouble letting go as they get older. This means that your role changes, but it doesn't mean that this role is any less important to them as they grow up. Understanding and accepting this is they key to being a good supporting parent. Now that you know have a talk with your kid about these issues before the tournaments start up in the fall. Maybe you will learn something new and maybe you will find by taking a step out of the spotlight they will enjoy their squash more and even play better!

63 comments:

  1. My children have played many competitive sports, both individual and team, and you are the first coach ever who suggested parents “shouldn’t go to tournaments with (their) kids as they get older”. Our child is more than willing to let us know when it’s time for us to “let go”. Sporting events are not one of them. Minimizing the parental role to paying for lessons and driving responsibilities minimizes the important role that parents play in the sporting lives or their children. Parenting teens can be difficult but in our house, sports are one of the things that really bring us together. We support each other in a common goal, celebrate successes, and console each other in defeat. By being interested and involved we show our children that we care about the things that are important to them. That includes being present at tournaments whenever possible.

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  2. I do generally recommend this, but know it's different from family to family. Here are a few reasons that I prefer the kids going to competitions without their parents as they get older. 1) kids need to start preparing for becoming an adult and becoming independent. This is an important time for the kids to develop on their own and learn how to travel and take care of themselves so they can play their best. If you continue taking your kids to tournaments right through high school they will have a difficult transition in college. Most teens don't get much time away from their parents besides at school, so I think this is an important time for their maturity as adolescents. 2) Many kids do not want their parents watching them compete, but have trouble telling their parents. I'm not saying this is always the case, but I have run into this issue a number of times. 3) Some parents have trouble controlling their emotions when they watch their child and put added pressure on them. 4) Whether your teen is in an individual or team sport, if a parent goes with them t the trip they lose out on valuable time team bonding time. I'm lucky that I get to coach at a school that sends a team of individual athletes to competitions. For a sport like squash I feel this is when the team gets to bond the most. This dynamic changes if some parents take their child to the event or take their child out for private meals.
    I know these don't apply to everyone. But I also feel that most parents would have a difficult time confessing they may interfere with their kids' competition. So this is why I prefer that kids travel and stay with the team to events as they get older. Not all teens will be in a situation to do so, but if you trust your teen sometimes you need to let go a little and let them grow up on their own.
    p.s. most coaches would never actually tell parents they can't go to an event for a number of reasons (even if they think it). they don't the support for the team to travel together and you are paying for their sport and competitions. Squash is a different spectator sport than say hockey or football where a loud supporting gallery is important. In squash often there is only limited space for watching a game, which can easily be occupied by fellow players and coaches..and of course some parents.

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  5. Very nice. I really hope parents will learn from this. I also publish article on same topic. "Supporting your kids in Squash - a coach's perspectives" please see link below. Thanks

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