Key issues for sports parents: Dealing with challenges
Last Updated: January 22, 2009 4:17 PM
Cal Botterill The Parental Guide
Fluctuating playing time
Young athletes can become frustrated if they feel that they are not getting enough playing time or that they have not gained a desired role on the team. The more upset or resentful they become, the further they will be from being in the appropriate frame of mind for a good performance (and the right frame of mind is often the essential ingredient to becoming a starter or getting that desired role on the team).
Life is about learning to manage current roles, whether they are support roles or desired roles. Help young athletes focus on what is within their control. Help them set performance goals. By focusing on their performance, they will have a better chance to achieve more playing time, that starting position, or a specific role on the team. If you react constructively, the mental, emotional, and team skills that your child develops can be the key to a successful future in sport and in life.
Understanding Growth spurts
Parents should realize that every child grows and develops at a different rate. Some may mature early and have many early successes and experience frustration later. Others may be late developers who, if supported, will go on to have excellent experiences.
Parents should also appreciate that the time when young athletes are going through a growth spurt can be particularly difficult. They suddenly have longer levers, bigger feet and less co-ordination. They can also be slightly more injury-prone until the rest of their body catches up.
Children need sensitivity and support at all times - but try to have extra empathy if a child is a late-developer, is going through a growth spurt, or has developed early and feels frustrated later when others start to catch up or go by.
Life can be cruel - and because sport is so public, has so much status and is so competitive and emotional, we have to make sure that inner development is also accomplished and that we show some empathy and support at a critical times.
Being injured can be traumatic for young athletes and they will experience a range of emotions from anger to sadness. Help them process each emotion by listening and empathizing. Try to be confident, optimistic and yet realistic.
Support children in striving for the rehabilitation goals set by the therapist or doctor. Encourage participation in any therapeutic activities that are possible during rehabilitation, eg, upper-body exercises when the lower body is injured. Continue to monitor their progress toward full recovery, with the ultimate goal of being able to perform at the level where they left off.
Injury rehabilitation can be an excellent time to work on perspective, balance, and mental, emotional and team skills. Just like a healed fracture, the young athlete can come out a stronger and more complete person and performer.
Finally, both children and elite athletes often have to be reminded to respect their therapist's or doctor's guidelines. Delay doesn't have to mean denying the pursuit of their dreams.
Cost of sport
In reality, some sports are beyond the financial resources of some parents. These parents may feel considerable guilt, frustration and embarrassment about not being able to afford their child's preferred activity.
Parents faced with financial obstacles should explore alternative means of support or sponsorship. Some sport governing bodies have support programs for those in need and some community centres have policies to reduce or waive fees for those who cannot afford the total cost. Also, sponsors can be approached to make programs more accessible.
If you are in this sitjuation, do not feel embarrassed about seeking support and exploring all options. Your child's development should be your priority - and the sport experience may help your child grow and make a meaningful contribution to society.« The strength of the female player | The Parental Guide home | Key issues for sports parents: Maintaining a balanced schedule »