How to be an Objective Sports Parent ... or Not

Sports parents are not objective observers. Let’s be honest about this, okay?

We think that our kid can do no wrong or very little wrong. We insist that it’s not his fault the other team scored. And we blame the coach or other team members for something that just may have been our child’s fault.

OR, we over-critique and come down way too hard. We think the one mistake our kid made is the huge elephant on the field or court, when in reality, it’s only a fly on the end of the coach’s nose.

In a way, it’s simply not possible for you as a sports parent to be objective when you watch your child play sports. And yet, in a way, it is.

How can you be objective, and yet still be subjective as a sports parent?

Start by owning your bias. It’s okay. We should have bias towards our kids. We’re supposed to be their biggest cheerleaders and supporters. There’s nothing wrong with believing in them and hoping that they will succeed.

Understand that EVERY parent is thinking the same way you do. We tend to look at other parents and think, “What is he thinking? His kid is terrible!” But remember that he has the same parental bias that you do, but about his child. Seeking to understand other parents may help cut down on the conflicts and drama that inevitably crop up during the season. Plus, you really need to keep the competition in the game, not in the bleachers amongst the parents.

Separate the child from his mistakes. If you tend to be too hard on your child, this will help you express unconditional love for your child regardless of how he performs as an athlete. On the other hand, if you tend to blame others for your child’s mistakes, then this will help you accept that mistakes are inevitable and forgivable—every single athlete in the history of the world has made mistakes--and if your child makes one, shake it off and move on. Remember, they're not professional athletes, it's really not about winning, it's about having fun.

Celebrate for every child on the team. I know you don’t always feel like doing this,  and I understand that’s parental bias kicking in, but here’s where your mature, subjective behavior needs to shine. Be a parent who cheers for the entire team, not just your child. Be a parent who is for every kid.

Try to understand what the coach is seeing. I believe there is a huge disconnect between youth coaches and sports parents. A parent is focused on his child; the coach is focused on the whole team. If sports parents would seek to understand a coach—talk to him, ask questions—instead of condemning him, they might get a better glimpse of his perspective.

As a sports parent, you will have days when objectivity wins and days when it does not. But this is a battle that is not worth getting stressed over as long as your child has a fun, character-building youth sports experience.

Are you an objective sports parent ... or not? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

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