As a former college athlete and former high school varsity coach, I’ve seen my share of crazed and excited spectators. And I’ve experienced my fair share of parent feedback from coaching choices I’ve made- some positive and some negative. Now that I’m a parent on the sideline, it’s become really important for me to keep everything in perspective and to observe the learning process as my kids grow into the athletes they want to become… (notice the “they” rather than the what I want or whatever destiny I imagine for them) How can I talk to my athlete after games? What should I be telling my player at home? When (if ever) should I go advocate for my athlete with the coaches? I'm no longer driving this bus, so what is my role and where's my seat on my child's journey?
Experiencing my fair share of positive and negative sports experiences (on both side of the whistle), I kept a list of “nevers” for myself, which has become an introspective Sideline Parent Checklist- nine questions that serve as a personal check-in when observing my kids' athletic experiences.
(This can be adapted to meet any extracurricular experience- dance, art, scouts, etc...)
As our kids get older and are exposed to more experiences- school, extracurricular activities, faith groups- other adult teachers and mentors become important influences and guides in our children’s lives. For some parents, losing that control can be devastating, uncomfortable, and even anxiety inducing. But what is the goal for my child? I want them to be lifelong learners and experience a variety of teaching styles to help them formulate a well rounded perspective of what life is and can be.
Being a yes-man for your kid is enabling and lazy parenting. Unrealistic expectations create burnout, anxiety, and disappointment. Balanced and thoughtful word choices will help your child get the most out of the experience you’re providing for them. Sitting on the sideline can be tough sometimes, but being a loving supportive parent is always easy. Good luck!
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.