By Danny Bernstein
After over a decade of coaching my own children and sitting on the sidelines as a spectator to their games, I have seen a lot of well-meaning parents step out of bounds with their own kids. We are all vulnerable to getting distracted from the big picture of watching our kids play. Here are a couple of things I have learned along the way with some helpful tips to keep youth sports in perspective:
Do Less: The best piece of advice I can give to parents who want their child to succeed in sports and fulfill their potential is to do less. A preoccupation with over programming and grooming a child’s competitive trajectory takes the fun out of the sport and inhibits the life-long character building benefits that sports delivers.
Let go: Parents must learn to “let go” and realize that children have ownership of their success and failures in games. The best thing we can do as guardians is to let them experience the process. We celebrate our children’s home runs and tremble at their faux pas as if we were standing on the field with them. How many of us would cringe if our judgmental body language and aggressive commands during game time were caught on tape?
Mistakes are OK: Our children must be allowed to make mistakes, recover and overcome if they are truly permitted to learn the transferable skills that athletic contests can teach.
No expectations: We must also learn to make decisions about our children’s participation in sports based on their own unique personalities and not on expectations that we hoist upon them. I see many young parents grimace when their little player does not perform like others on the field. We wonder what is wrong with our children and seek extra help and remedial assistance, when in fact, our kids’ motor skills have not fully developed or the children’s interest may lie elsewhere. Our kids look to us for guidance. We must be prepared to make decisions for them, which are in their best interest, not our own. We are not raising ourselves, but unique and wonderful personalities, which deserve better. Kids who are destined to be great athletes are going to get there with or without our prodding. Misguided interference can only impede, not enhance, the process.