At FCGC we provide opportunities for people to develop skills for life. An important part of this is ensuring gymnasts own their experiences. Parents are an important factor in ensuring gymnasts develop the ability to own their experiences, which will enable them to make better decisions on their own and accept the consequences of their choices.
So what can parents do to help? Anne Josephine from JAG Gym suggests the following 12 ways to let your child own their sport experience.
1. Drop WE for HE/SHE. Watch what pronouns you are using when you are talking about your child’s sport. Unless you are your child’s coach, WE do not have practice or a game, HE/SHE does. Pronouns are the part of speech that indicates possession. Let your child possess their sports experience.
2. Don’t keep up with the Jones’. Just because the Jones’ hire a private coach, send their child to an expensive sports camp or begin home-schooling so little Janie can train more, does not mean your family needs to follow suit.
3. Sole expectation: character counts. The only expectations you should have of your child is that they treat their coaches, teammates and opponents with respect, and that they give their best effort.
4. Little gymnasts have big ears. Be careful of your comments around your child regarding the coaches or the abilities of other teammates. Critiquing the coach can disturb the bond between the coach and athlete. Comparing your child’s performance to a teammate’s can create jealousy and weaken friendships. If you have a problem or question, speak directly to the coach.
5. Take a break from the bleachers. Watch how much and how intently you watch practice. Give your child some space to have the experience to themselves.
6. If you can’t say anything nice… You have two options on the sidelines: cheer or be silent.
7. No comment. Don’t comment on refereeing or judging.
8. Goals are between coach and athlete. Let your child and your child’s coach set the goals related to the sport. If asked about your goals for your child your answer should be for them to have fun.
9. Don’t process your feelings with your child. Your feelings of inadequacy from your own childhood sports experience, your frustration with your child’s coach or your feelings of disappointment with your child’s results; are not things to talk about with your child. Instead, turn to your partner, friend or therapist for support, but do not make your child responsible for your feelings. It is your job to help your child with their feelings not the other way around.
10. Don’t use the car ride to coach. Talk about mastering skills, how good it feels to exercise or be part of team instead of win/loss records, missed plays or how the child can improve his/her performance.
11. Let your child experience logical consequences. If your child violates a team policy and has to miss a game, breaks a rule and has a consequence or forgets a necessary piece of equipment and cannot play, don’t rescue them. Sure, if they are very young, they need parental help to keep their gear together, but by 8 or 9 years they should be responsible for their own items.
12. Encourage your child to communicate directly with their coaches. Again, as reasonably expected given the child’s age, the athlete should take responsibility in communicating with the coach.
There is a saying that if we are lucky we will have two chances at the parent-child relationship. First, as the child, then as the parent. It is important to remember which role we are playing and whose sports journey this is.