The initial excitement of having a son or daughter play on their first sports team can sometimes be counterbalanced by concerns that a child may not be fully prepared to enjoy the experience.
Dan Chipps, Creighton University Women’s Head Rowing Coach and assistant coach of his son’s Little League team, has advice on how parents can help their kids have fun, beginning with good sportsmanship. Chipps has found over more than 13 years of experience that he wants to teach both his collegiate and youth athletes similar life skills.
Knowing that his athletes have had a good experience is a top aim, says Chipps, but so is the idea that his players have learned important lessons in how to “communicate and interact with their peers in a way that they probably wouldn’t have gotten in a non-sports activity.”
Here are some tips Chipps has for parents, especially those with kids just starting their rookie seasons in youth sports:
Talk to the coach early on about expectations.
Chipps and his fellow Little League coaching staff try to set boundaries early with parents about what behavior they deem acceptable and unacceptable at games.
Before your child’s first game, talk to coaches about what they expect from
parents and players before, during, and after the game.
Don’t be harder on your child than anyone else.
Chipps gives this particular piece of advice to parents who are coaching their own child, but it also applies in the bleachers. “As coaches, we obviously want our kids to be the best,” he says, “but we’ve still got to remember that they’re just kids.”
Act as a role model.
While Chipps’ goal is to teach his players how to interact with others, he believes parents should emulate these skills. Handle disagreements at the appropriate time—don’t start arguments in the middle of a game. “We’ve had teams we play against,” he says, “where they are literally calling balls or strikes, or getting on 14-year-old kids (serving as umpires) about a call. What are we teaching our athletes?”
Parents should have fun, too.
“If you have fun, your kid will have fun,” says Chipps. “If you’re stressed out, freaking out about it [the game], your kid’s going to freak out about it, and they’re not going to enjoy the experience.”