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How to be an All-Star Sports Parent

Sports medicine doctors often watch the dynamics between athletes, coaches and parents over many years.

Some athletes burn out, some have done well and some have earned a college scholarship or placement on a USA National Team. As an outsider looking into the world of young athletes, it's easy to point out what makes a great athlete. Hard work, persistence, talent, sacrifice and attitude all factor into the success of a young athlete. It's not as easy to pinpoint what makes a great sports parent.

But pediatricians, psychologists and coaches have found very similar qualities in the parents of highly successful (and happy) athletes. Below is a list of several traits and strategies that are consistent in all-star parents.

Whether you are new to the sport or a longtime veteran, there's always something to learn while improving skills. Perhaps 1 (or more) of these points will confirm your current strategy or initiate a positive change. While this isn't an attempt to tell you how to parent, it is a glimpse into successful parent/athlete relationships.

Top 10 traits of the all-star parent

  • Good day or bad, they need your love and support. It's your most important job – and no one else will do it as well as you!

  • Let the coach be the tough guy when necessary. No matter what level, what club or what coach your child has next season, you are the constant. Let your child know you are their best advocate.

  • The coach uses a curriculum, goals and experience with dozens of athletes before working with yours. Support the coach's strategy to get your child to their highest potential. This will reduce the chance for confusion.

  • Don't be ruled by emotions. Watch for individual progress, not what your child's teammates are doing. Your child may seem behind or ahead of the others. This can change like the weather! It takes 1 or 2 seasons to judge improvement and success – not 1 or 2 competitions.

  • Your child is an expert at reading your emotions. Anxious parents make anxious kids! You have the power to keep your child calm, and you have that same power to make them nervous.

  • Failing (sometimes) is OK! Learning how to handle and overcome failure is valuable for sports as well as life. It is a good life skill for the athlete (and parent) to learn how to accept feedback, praise and correction from the coach. A positive attitude will make it worth the risk to help your child find their true potential. Similar to learning how to ride a bicycle, each new skill won't be perfect in the beginning. It takes practice, a progression of steps and many corrections to master. Encourage learning and improving (rather than perfection) to define success.

  • Find out your child's goals and dreams. Don't want it more than they do.

  • Athletes gain many traits during sports that help them in adulthood, such as teambuilding, self-respect, hard work, achieving goals and time management/attendance. All of these skills will last them a lifetime.

  • It's a sport. Remember why you chose this for your child when they were young (exercise, making friends, learning a skill, fun). Now that it means more, don't forget what "sport" really means!

  • It is easy to always be planning for the next competition or event. Don't forget how important it is to talk to your child about current achievements, staying happy and experiencing the now. You are making memories and lessons that will last a lifetime.

Thomas Edison had thousands of failed inventions before he invented the light bulb! Abraham Lincoln lost 8 elections and had 2 failed businesses. Think about the qualities that must have gotten them to their overall goal. When you're teaching your child, remember that promoting these qualities may help parenting – and being an athlete – more fun!

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