I read some great tips for sports parents on a website called Chicago Health. In an article called Healthy Sports Parenting Starts with These Tips, author Jeanette Hurt offered helpful information that I wish I had known when my kids were young–especially the tips about overuse injuries and health. As a parent, I thought swimming and exercise is healthy and I didn’t anticipate there could be a downside to athletics.
From the article:
Coach and author Sharkie Zartman remembers coaching at a youth volleyball tournament and observing a match between two very good teams of 10-year-olds when the parents started behaving badly.
“It was just a battle, going back and forth,” she says. “After it was over, the parents were still yelling at the coaches, officials and other parents. Meanwhile, the kids from both teams went outside to play some kind of circle game, and they were all laughing and having fun. I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, who are the grownups, and who are the kids?’”
As numerous memes on social media suggest, badly behaving sports parents are not uncommon. In an effort to foster healthier sports parenting, Zartman teamed up with Robert Weil, DPM, a sports podiatrist based in Aurora, to write #HeySportsParents: An Essential Guide for any Parent with a Child in Sports.
It’s important for parents to stay calm and be supportive while helping their kids navigate the perks and pitfalls of youth sports, the authors say.
Zartman says many parents look at sports with a competitive mindset, while their kids just want to enjoy themselves. “Kids play sports because they’re fun, and they want to be with their friends,” she says. “But what do most parents focus on? Winning, getting the trophies or dreaming of scholarships.”
I have the Zartman and Weil book on my shelf and it’s definitely worth a read. They each write a section from their perspectives and then have sports parents share their stories as well.
There is a lot more to learn in the article including what happens when parents bribe their kids for performance and abusive coaches. Following is the list of tips I found so helpful. You can read the rest of the article here.
Tips for sports parents
Follow these tips for a healthier approach to sports for parents and their children.
Check safe sport guidelines. Guidelines should be available through the individual sport’s governing body or through the U.S. Center for SafeSport. Parents can also look to uscenterforsafesport.org to report concerns and to find more information.
Avoid overuse injuries. Too much pressure from year-round training can lead to physical harm, such as overuse injuries. Plus, sports carry the risk of concussions. Practice safely.
Keep an eye out for burnout. Many kids drop out of sports by age 13, Conviser says. “They leave if there’s injury or too much stress and strain on their bodies, their families, their well-being or finances. The more hours per week a sport requires usually means that there’s a greater likelihood of early burnout.”
Watch for signs of disordered eating. Some sports, especially gymnastics and wrestling, put children at risk for eating disorders. “Parents need to be aware of the pressures facing their kids, whether it’s peer pressure or pressure from their coaches,” Breslow says.
If injured, see a doctor. If the injury doesn’t respond to rest, ice and over-the-counter medicine, it should be checked out, especially if there is continued pain, excessive swelling or other persistent symptoms, Breslow says. “If you miss an injury early on, sometimes a simple situation becomes very complex,” he warns.
Consider going to an orthopedic clinic. If parents suspect that their child has an orthopedic injury to the bones or joints, Breslow recommends taking them to a walk-in orthopedic clinic, where they can be immediately evaluated by a specialist and get the right type of imaging, bracing or other therapy.
Be prepared. Parents should make sure their children wear the right footwear, get enough sleep and consume a balanced diet.
Stay hydrated. “A lot of times, kids aren’t drinking enough, especially in [cool] weather, because they don’t know they’re sweating as much,” Breslow says.
Learn to stretch well. Many athletes emphasize strength instead of flexibility, Breslow says. But stretching warm-ups are important. “A significant number of injuries occur because of a lack of flexibility,” he says.
What other tips do you have for sports parents and student-athletes?