Trying to guide kids through a single football season is truly a tough job. And everybody knows that parents and sports can be a bad mix for some parents, moreover it can be a bad mix for their kids. And most often that bad mix is born more out of parental concern rather than any malicious intent. Emotions can run high when a parent believes his/her child is being mistreated, ignored, or put in harms way.
Youth football can be a huge challenge for most kids; trying to be convince a 6-year old that hitting is fun doesn’t even sound normal. In fact, it is abnormal. Hence, the key to getting a 6-year old off to a good start is positive parental support. Parents have to show respect for the coaching staff, referees, the booster club, and the other parents.
Kids need their parents to reassure them that the people in this new, very rough world, are all focused on keeping them safe and making this new sport fun. Football is fun, Football is fun, Football is fun!!! Don’t forget it.
Coaches need your support in public and in front of your kids. In private, they need to be held accountable just like everybody else in your kids lives….normal parenting.
Obviously, as a parent you have to help your child through the season. He/she will come head on with all kinds of issues that they have never had to deal with. Again, normal parenting, maybe just a little more intense 🙂
But I thought I’d just lay out a few key things that I’ve seen parents have trouble with, so here goes!
I’ve seen coaches fall all across the spectrum on this particular topic. “Only the best play, we want to win.” “I’ll play the weaker kids once we have the game in hand.” “Everybody plays, the score be damned!”
It’s a tough topic, even amongst parents. But where do the parents come in on this? I reiterate, parents need to support the coach, but they also need to hold the coach accountable. This is little league football, IT AIN’T THE NFL!!!
My thoughts–everybody needs to play, but you don’t want to cripple the team, so the coach has to have a plan to make sure that every kid gets playing time. I’ve seen coaches use a team Mom or Dad that actually stands on the sideline with a list and makes sure that every kid has played. Maybe every kid gets a certain number of plays or minutes or quarters, whatever it is.
The key is, the coach can’t do it alone. He/she has to have help, if that means you, then step up and help out, even if it is only on game day.
Hitting is NOT natural for kids. Let me reiterate, this is NOT NORMAL. Granted, we all know kids that are rough and tough and this aspect of the game does not bother them.
But I’ve seen tons of kids leave the game because they just can’t get past this particular aspect. Hitting and getting hit goes against everything we teach our kids when they are little, now we’re telling them to do it. And don’t be hateful or mean or malicious when they do it; be a good sport. All unnatural.
Talk to your kids about this. You have to help them through that.
Unfortunately, yelling is normal on a football field–in practice, in games, in the stands–everybody is yelling. This too can be very disconcerting for some kids. Coaches and parents alike need to be aware of this.
Often times kids mistake yelling for anger, some kids shy away from it, some kids retaliate in kind, and some just shut down all together. Parents have to be there to help explain all of this to their kids. Most of the time coaches yell, it’s just because they are trying to make sure they can be heard.
Players are wearing helmets, everybody is outside, kids get distracted, coaches yell. Encourage your kids to stay focused, pay attention to the coaches, and be respectful of their coaches and teammates.
Diet and Sleep
Children normally need lots of sleep anyway. When they start playing football, chances are they will need even more sleep, they definitely won’t need less. Maybe that bedtime needs to change from 9pm to 8pm, whatever works into your day, but make sure your child is getting plenty of sleep.
I don’t know how many people I know that don’t eat breakfast–just amazing to me. But then they don’t eat lunch. And then a kid shows up for practice and hasn’t eaten anything but a bag of potato chips all day–not good.
I’m not going to play dietitian here, but kids need to eat. Nothing huge in the hour before practice or a game, but some kind of snack. Outside of an hour before, they need to eat normal meals–preferably NOT heavy red meats or greasy foods–but they do need to eat.
Parents and Sports
In case I haven’t been clear in all of this, parents have a HUGE role in getting their kids through a football season. Never mind the logistics of getting to and from practices and games, but getting them through the physical and mental challenges the game presents.
Football is a tough, physical sport. And just like school, your kids will run into all kinds in this game–bullies, good kids, shy kids, mean kids, and they’ll find some friends.
Ultimately, the players on a team will form a bond, whether the team is good or bad. The players will come together. Whether the team does well or not will (no I do not define good as winning) be a function of whether the adults around them have created a positive learning environment.
Successful youth football teams require extraordinary parents supporting coaches and everyone else in the system.
Parents and Sports: It’s a Tough Job.
If you have any thoughts, advice, or questions please leave them in the comments section below.
And good luck to you and your kid/s,