If you want to supercharge your sports kid’s confidence and performance, it’s time to improve your athletic empathy. Athletic empathy is your ability to understand what motivates your athlete and how to support them. It seems rather simple and yet there are a lot of well-meaning sports parents that struggle with it.
For example, there are some parents who know little to nothing about their kid’s sport and leave it to the coach to take care of everything. And then there are sports parents that believe they know exactly how to “fix” their kid, but get frustrated and angry when their kid doesn’t follow their directions and/or meet their expectations. These types of scenarios widen communication gaps between parents and their children and negatively impact their kids’ athletic confidence and performance.
Look, I can only imagine how challenging parenting really is. You are literally responsible for taking care of another human being and making sure they have what they need to grow and be safe. So in the grand scheme of things, sports may not seem that important. But, I can assure you—it is. According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, people are motivated to become their best selves as other needs are met. Those needs are: physiological, safety, love and belongingness, and esteem. And athletics provides them all. So in essence, sports are a springboard to self-actualization, the highest achievement of one’s potential—which is ultimately what you want for your kid.
So here are three best practices to help you improve your athletic empathy and put you way ahead of the game in sports parenting.
PRACTICE #1: BE A BACKER NOT A BULLY
I once coached two brothers who played baseball. One was six and the other was eight. Their father, who was also a baseball coach, brought them to me to “fix” their running form and improve their speed. The first time I watched the boys run, the father just started screaming at them about what they were doing wrong. I immediately pulled the father aside and asked him to just watch the session and focus on memorizing the success cues I gave to his boys. By the end of the session, the boys had found their fastest running form and the father showed remorse. I could tell he was a little bit embarrassed by his earlier behavior. Thrilled with their first session results, he thanked me for calming him down and helping his kids.
Hey, I understand how easy it is to get emotional when it comes to your kid; but taking their perceived shortfalls as a personal reflection on you and lashing out at them because of it is bullying behavior. And they don’t deserve that—especially from you.
So if you ever feel the need to berate your sports kid, take a deep breath first and let it out slowly. Then transform into a backer by yelling out something useful, like “Go” or “Nice Effort.”
PRACTICE #2: FOCUS ON MIP INSTEAD OF MVP
Everyone can’t be the Most Valuable Player (MVP); but everyone can self-improve. If your kid has dreams of being the best at their sport—fantastic! That means they have an internal drive to be great. But while it’s important to support their MVP dreams; it’s more important to smooth their sports growth journey by focusing on being the Most Improved Player (MIP).
When I was first learning to hurdle, I was pretty bad at it and I almost quit. If I had quit, I never would have won two MIP awards, an MVP honor and four state championships in high school.
I joined the track team because I had dreams of being a track star and winning a bunch of medals and ribbons. A few weeks in, I was hit with the sobering reality that I was a long way away from being the best. I quickly realized that there were forces at play that I had no control over; but the one thing I could control was getting better. That’s what’s great about track. It’s easy to figure out if you’re getting better, because all your results are marked by time. So that’s what I did, I focused on getting personal records (PRs).
Those PRs shrouded me from the disappointments of loss and hyped me up to get back out there and do even better next time—and they will do the same for your athlete. Even if your kid’s sport doesn’t produce all the individual stats that track does, your child can still gain confidence through their incremental skill improvements.
PRACTICE #3: RAISE YOUR KID’S AEI
If your athlete wants to be MIP, they need to increase their Athletic Emotional Intelligence (AEI), which is the ability to recognize and manage their own emotions and body movement. One of the simplest ways to help your sports kid raise their AEI is to ask their coach what they need to work on to get better.
Now here’s the hard part: take whatever the coach says as an opportunity instead of a knock on your kid. If you can help your kid improve that particular skill and still keep it fun—great. But if you don’t know what you’re doing and/or can’t keep it fun—DO NOT WORK WITH YOUR KID. Save your relationship and pair them up with a private coach instead.
If you would like to gain more insights on how to boost your kid’s athletic confidence and performance, go to ArtOfSportsParenting.com. Or if you’d like to ask me a specific question, feel free to contact me here.
Until next time…
Cheers to your awesome kid,
Coach Martise : )
Extra Tip: Speed is a skill most athletes need to improve. Whether or not I ever get to work directly with your athlete, I invite you to get my free ebook, Faster Kid, for some speed-inducing tips. Click here for instant access.
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Martise is a sports confidence coach that helps kids and adults supercharge their athletic confidence so that they can win on and off the field. Sign up for her free, powerful tips.