Being a Terrific Sports Parent- Freya Katre

The previous article looked at understanding and managing a parents roles and relationships with regard to their child’s sport. This second part discusses the basic principles required for good parent-athlete communication. In the following are some simple principles to be kept in mind:

Let the child know that you are interested and involved in their sport and other aspects of life as well, e.g.: social life, school life, studies, recreational activities etc.

Look at turning off the television or putting the newspaper down when your child wants to converse, regarding any topic and especially after a tournament or practice session.

It’s best to refrain from taking a telephone call when the child has something important to tell you, or when you’re in the middle of a conversation with him/her.

Important conversations are recommended to be held in privacy, especially when its regarding winning or losing a match. Any instructions to be given to the child regarding food, fluids, habits, tactics, strategies or even motivational support speeches are best given in privacy.

Actions or words that may lead to embarrassing your child or putting them on the spot in front of others after he/she has not played so well, lost, or even given away a few easy points according to you, will lead only to resentment and hostility, rather than a healthy way of communicating your thoughts.

Rather than towering over your child, especially if the child is still under 16, it is a good idea, to physically get down to the child’s level and talk.

Calm down – If you are very angry about a behaviour or an incident before, during or after the training/match, it’s advised to refrain from communication until you regain your cool, because you cannot be objective until then. It is better to stop, settle down, and talk to the child later (keeping in mind the above mentioned points).

If you are very tired, you will have to make an extra effort to be an active listener. Genuine active listening is hard work and is very difficult when your mind and body are already tired. Children can very easily see the difference between your hearing and listening.

There are numerous advantages of listening carefully and politely rather than interrupting the child when they are trying to tell their side of the story. It is important to be as courteous to your child as you would be to your colleagues or close friends.

While he/she is narrating a story, avoid jumping to conclusions, or making presumptions thinking that you know your child better than they do themselves. Children often lie under pressure or out of fear. Rather than embarrassing them with facts and scaring them into sharing the truth, assist your child to ease into accepting their fault on their own. Don’t ask why, but do ask what happened.

If you feel you know why the athlete isn’t playing well or why they appear to not be making an improvement, confront the child with the information that you know or have been told. Instead of forcing the child to immediately accept everything you tell them, let them introspect.

It’s best to keep adult talking, (You’ll talk when I’m finished, I know whats best for you, Just do what I say and that will solve the problem) preaching and moralising to a minimum, because they are not helpful in getting communication started and keeping it open.

As much as possible, avoid using words or statements targeting the character of the child: dumb, stupid, lazy: Stupid, that makes no sense at all or What do you know, you’re just a child. Instead, focusing on the action that may be improved would be more effective. Encourage the child in planning some specific steps to the solution.

Showing that you accept the child as she/he is, regardless of what they may or may not have done, on court or off the court/field has numerous advantages. In turn, you will be able to derive satisfaction from just watching your child play and enjoy themselves in their sport.

Using verbal reinforcement is effective in keeping communication channels open. This may be done by accepting your child and praising their efforts to communicate and share.

Words of Encouragement and Praise

Children need to feel loved and appreciated to assist with both their physical and emotional development. Often, parents find it easier to provide negative feedback (as they think it for their betterment) rather than positive or constructive feedback. In the following are certain phrases that may be selected and used with the child on a daily basis. This would enhance the quality and effectiveness of communication between the parent and the athlete: Yes Fine Very good Excellent Marvellous That’s right Correct Wonderful I like the way you do that I’m pleased with (proud of) you!
Great going Good for you That’s the way Much better You’re doing better
That’s good Wow Oh boy Very nice Good work
Good idea I like the way you_____ You are improving more and more You showed a lot of responsibility when you ______ I appreciate the way you ______
I like the way you ______ with out having to be asked (reminded) Now you’ve got it Keep it up I’m sure glad you are my son/daughter I love you 

You can SHOW them how you feel in addition to telling them:

Pat on shoulder, head, knee
Signal or gesture to signify approval
High five
Laugh (with, not at)
Pat on the back

Having explored means to ensure holistic parent-athlete communication, look out for our next article the third and final part to this three part parent-athlete series. This next article is directed primarily towards parents themselves and understanding the benefits of striking a balance between your own personal and professional lives, thereby ensuring well being of both yourself and your family.




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