Raising athletes is a big task. As parents, we constantly need to toe the line between encouraging them to be the best they can be and reminding them that they are loved and valued no matter what they achieve in life. It’s also a huge honor because you are entrusted with nurturing and helping them turn into the athletes they’ve always dreamed of being. If your kids engage in competitive sports who dream of doing it professionally one day, here are some tips to ensure they are always safe and healthy and that they don’t lose their identity in the game.
Constantly remind them of their intrinsic value
No matter what activity your kids are doing—it doesn’t even have to be sports—whether it’s music, art, academics, or anything that requires them to be competitive, you can expect that they will always feel some form of inadequacy or insecurity and that they will always have the tendency to compare themselves with their peers. Kids and teenagers are already prone to these things, but couple it with activities that entail rivalry and competition, and you amp it up to a hundred.
This is why as parents, it’s incumbent upon us to remind our kids of their intrinsic value. It’s important to remind them that before they even achieved anything in life, they were already loved unconditionally. Tell them that while you believe in them, their medals and scores don’t define them and that they are so much more than just the game. This means encouraging them and saying kind words even after they’ve lost or failed.
Teach them the value of their bodies
One of the risks of being overly competitive is that your kids might let their bodies go in the name of the game. They might push themselves to the limit and keep testing their boundaries. Here are some ways you can ensure that they remain healthy and safe as student-athletes:
- Constantly check in with them to ask if they feel any sort of pain or discomfort after practice.
- Stay in touch with their coaches. Ask them if they’re teaching the children the proper way to stretch and warm up and if they are taught the right techniques and strategies to protect themselves from injury.
- If your child feels any form of pain, take them to see the family doctor who can recommend therapies like a massage or chiropractic care.
- Remind your kids that their health and bodies come first and that they can rest, too.
Always keep it positive
The last thing you want is to raise a resentful kid. You can avoid this by not pushing them to do things they don’t want to do—and it all starts with asking them what they want to do in the first place. Here are some tips to ensure that you are parenting from a place of positive reinforcement:
- Ask your kids if they still want to keep playing. Don’t miss the signs and symptoms of an unhappy child who feels obligated to stay in the game because you want them to.
- Let them take the lead in their athletic career. If they want to take a break, do additional training, or try a new sport, listen to them and let them make their own choices.
- Cultivate internal motivation. Remind them that they are playing for themselves, not for you, not their school, not their coaches, but themselves. Remember that their drive and desire to play must always come from within.
- If your child is on the younger side, keep the competition minimal. Studies show that when competition is not the focus, kids love the sport more, have a healthier view of the game, and learn the skills better.
Foster a healthy lifestyle
As a parent, it’s also our job to emphasize nutrition and health. Pack your kids’ meals with a healthy amount of protein, fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. There are plenty of ways to make these meals both nutritious and delicious, so you don’t have to worry about your kids resenting you for not letting them eat junk. Living a healthy lifestyle will not only benefit your kids; it will also be greatly advantageous for you and your partner. Moreover, your kids will feel supported knowing that the entire family is making an effort for them, too.
Raising student-athletes may entail many sacrifices, but they’re ultimately worth it in the end, especially if it helps your children be happy and be the best versions of themselves. Observe, gently support, and love them through it all—and they will always be grateful to have you as a parent.