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Responsible Sport Parenting: How to win, even when the team loses

February 6, 2012 12:00 AM
Why do 35 million U.S. children participate in organized youth sports each year? To start, sports give boys and girls an array of exciting "firsts"—the first game, the first big score and the first team victory.  Our first spring US Youth Soccer games kick off soon! For every first win, however, there is also a child's first big loss and the question that follows: How can I guide my child through the disappointment of defeat?

While such comforts as juice boxes and granola bars provide a good start, only an adult mentor can show a young athlete how even a 1 and 10 season can be full of fun memories and positive learning experiences.

"Rebounding from mistakes, overcoming disappointment, rallying oneself to prevail at next week's game—these are the life lessons that youth sports provide," says Jim Thompson, founder and executive director of Positive Coaching Alliance. Jim recently sat down with Herm Edwards, a former NFL head coach and they touched on the role of parents and how they impact their young athlete. In this podcast, Edwards talks about how making an impact starts at home with the parents as well as how his father helped him develop as an athlete. Listen to the Herm Edwards Podcast.

Thompson emphasizes that to ensure boys and girls absorb these lessons, participation by parents in a constructive and encouraging manner is crucial.

"Youth sports offer so many teachable moments that can enrich a child in the long run," says Thompson. "When moms and dads successfully partner with their children's coaches to put the game in healthy perspective, kids are more likely to view their sporting experience as positive." As you start thinking about this upcoming soccer season, try to use these quick tips from Responsible Sports to help you and your athletes stay focused on the real values of youth sports:

1. Emphasize attributes other than winning. Kids can take games very seriously, but they quickly forget their disappointments and move on, showing that winning and losing isn't everything. Take their cue. Point out their effort. (Mark Manning from the University of Nebraska shares his thoughts on the right way to win in this video interview).
2. Establish an early positive relationship with the coach. It will be much easier to communicate later should a problem arise. Want to see what a Parent/Coach Meeting can look like? Watch this video of an actual meeting.)
3. Fill the coach's emotional tank—and your child's.  Just about every coach and player does a lot of things well. Take the time to look for those things and when you see something you like, let him or her know about it. Start this effort at the beginning of the season and carry it through, regardless of the win-loss record.
4. Don't put the player in the middle. It's much easier for a child to put his or her best effort forward if parents show support for the coach. If you have a concern, take it up with the coach privately.
5. Don't give instructions during a game or practice. It can be extremely confusing to your child and distracting to other parents and fans to hear someone other than the coach yelling out instructions.   
For more tips on mentoring, such as Game Day Tips and Kid Friendly Criticism visit While there, consider reminding your US Youth Soccer coach or administrator to register your team for the upcoming Spring Community Grant program – you could earn $2,500 for your team just for demonstrating your commitment to responsibility.



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