1. The champion sports parent chooses to see the big picture.
Too many sports parents focus on the small picture. When they do that, today’s event or experience becomes all they can see. Those parents have a tendency to support their child or show their love the best they can – usually by working to defend their kids, protect them, and make them feel good at all costs. With this perspective, it can be easy to make judgments about who your child is and what they are or aren’t capable of. And it makes the outcome of today’s contest all that matters. Preparing for tomorrow isn’t part of your plan.
But the champion sports parent sees the big picture. When you step back and see things differently, you start to think and act differently, too. Focusing on the big picture allows you to see that many of the things your child needs in order to be his or her best can’t be taught or learned in a day. In fact, the qualities possessed by those we consider champions in any area of life – qualities like passion, commitment, resilience, selflessness, and courage, for instance – can only be developed through a daily commitment to the long, slow process that learning, growing, and improving requires. Today is just another step in that process. When you see the reality of what it takes, then how you support your child and show your love changes, too.
Instead of protecting, as a champion sports parent you are focused on preparing – on using whatever happens today to help your child get better for tomorrow. You see that equipping your child for real success is more important than just making them feel good. Seeing the big picture clarifies that judging who your child is or what they’re capable of is a lot less important than simply working today to help them improve. And when you see the big picture, the outcome of today’s contest isn’t the only thing that matters.
Of course winning is important, and the champion sports parent wants to win. But more than focusing on whether or not your child won today, you can focus on whether or not your child played like a winner today. Do you know the difference? Regardless of the final score, did they exhibit the passion, commitment, resilience, selflessness, and courage of a champion athlete? And if not, then how you can teach, equip, and prepare them to do it better moving forward? When you see the big picture, you focus on the process of helping your child become their best. Who they are today isn’t nearly as important as who you’re helping them become for tomorrow.
2. The champion sports parent chooses to act on intention, not on emotion.
Sports are played in a competitive, emotional environment. Add to that the huge investment many of us have made in the experience and the desire we have to see our child succeed, and it’s not hard to see how a kids’ game can bring out our inner idiot. For any parent who just shows up and hopes for the best, it’s easy to get caught up on that roller coaster of emotion. Those people probably have good intentions – most of the time they just want the best for their son or daughter. Unfortunately, despite their intentions, acting on emotion can lead to decisions that actually hinder their success. If you fall into this trap, it may lead you to thinking, saying, or doing things you’ll regret.
That’s why the champion sports parent is intentional, so they can avoid being emotional. Take the time to make some important decisions about what really matters, about where you’ll be focusing your attention, and about who you’re committed to being today…before you ever get to the game. That way, you’ve helped ensure that when things do get competitive or emotional, you can avoid the roller coaster and the regret that often accompanies it. As a champion sports parent, you are here on purpose, for a purpose. When you’re committed to that purpose you can be sure, no matter what happens today, that your actions line up with your intentions. What you think, do, and say will be heartening your child’s success – not hindering it. And you’ll be making choices you won’t regret.
3. The champion sports parent chooses to limit comparison.
When Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” he probably wasn’t thinking specifically about you, the sports parent, but he could’ve been. Comparing your young athlete to others is one of the easiest and least productive things you can do. No matter who your child is or who those other kids are, comparing can be dangerous. If your kid’s the best, comparing can create in both of you an unhealthy sense of entitlement or arrogance. If your kid’s behind, comparing can paralyze both your belief in and your commitment to the work it takes to get better. Comparison is the thief of joy, but it’s also the thief of growth and development, too.
Don’t forget that improvement only happens one way – the hard way…one small step at a time. The more time you’re focused on comparing, the less time you’re focused on the process of actually helping your child get better. It’s long and slow enough even when you do it right – let alone when you’re constantly stopping to measure your kid against everyone else. When you’re comparing, you’re delaying or missing out altogether on your child’s opportunity to develop.
As a champion sports parent, the only comparison you should be interested in making is between who your child currently is and who they’re capable of becoming. When you do that – when you create a clear vision for who your child can become – then it’s easier to recognize and embrace the work it takes to develop those areas where they’re weak.
4. The champion sports parent chooses to be empowered, not victimized.
As a sports parent, there are so many variables that exist outside your control, It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the circumstances that make up the experience. The coach’s decisions. The referee’s calls. The choices of teammates and opponents. The crowd, the conflicts, the conditions. There’s a never-ending list of things that can rob you of your joy and your purpose.
It can be easy to adopt a victim mentality – a feeling of powerlessness as a sports parent. The good news, I guess, about adopting this mentality is that there’s always someone or something to blame or complain about when things go wrong. The bad news, of course, is that choosing this approach makes this whole experience a lot less fun and a lot less valuable than it really deserves to be.
For each of us, what we choose to emphasize is what our kids will learn to value. That means what we make important is what we help them make important, too. If the constant whining, blaming and complaining that come with a victim mentality are what we choose, then we make it easy for our kids to follow suit. And the harsh reality is that the more victim your kid’s got in them, the less space there is for a champion to develop.
That’s why the champion sports parent chooses to be empowered instead of victimized. As an empowered parent, you don’t discount that all those circumstances – the coach, the referee, the other players, or anything else – will probably play an important part in your child’s experience. But despite all those things you can’t control, you’re focused instead on those things you know both you and your child can control. Your attitude. Your effort. Your response when things don’t go your way. The way you treat others. When you choose to focus on and emphasize what’s controllable, you help your child learn to do the same. The more you eliminate that victim mentality, the more space there is for a champion to develop.
5. The champion sports parent chooses to enjoy the ride.
As you probably know from experience, life as a sports parent is a wild ride filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, celebrations and frustrations. It can be tough, tiresome, and tedious. At some point, you may even consider whether or not it’s all worth it. With all the other responsibilities you have in life, some days it’s not hard for sports parenting to become another one of the stressful, joyless obligations of life.
As a champion sports parent, however, you’ve chosen to focus more on the opportunity than the obligation – on what you get to do, not what you have to do. You do so not because you never feel stressed, burdened, or inconvenienced. These days it seems almost everyone feels that way. You do it because you recognize the deeper purpose that exists in this whole experience. Yes, it’s a wild ride. But at the heart of it all, you see the opportunity your child has to learn the lessons and develop the qualities that can make him or her a champion for life. The game itself should be fun, no doubt; but you also need to see that your chance to teach, train, and equip your child for success today is a privilege, too – one that can change the course of their life forever. Don’t take it for granted. See clearly all that today provides. Recognize that it’ll all be over before you know it, and remember…you’ll miss it when it’s gone.