Parenting a young athlete? These 3 tips are the recipe for a winning season

·3 min read

You’ve made it. Your son or daughter is playing youth sports and loves it. You might love it even more.

You were a pretty good high school athlete, or even a college one. You didn’t quite get to the pros. But maybe your kid can. Sound familiar?

It’s a thought process that’s probably years in the making and can rear its head at the earliest stages of a child’s sporting life.

Before you dive in head first, though, here’s a quote from a man who became one of my coaching mentors when I first got involved with my sons’ sports teams: “You won’t believe who the good players are when they get older.”

The “good” players when kids are 4 or 5 (or even younger) are probably the ones whose moms or dads spent a lot of time working with them at an early age. But maybe you haven’t had time to do this, and that’s OK.

The purpose of youth athletics comes in many forms: Making friends, finding an activity to love, figuring out the sport you might ultimately pursue. If you the parent uses them to try and figure out whether your son or daughter is going to be a professional athlete, you are missing the point.

I know, I know, you are different. You’re in it for at least one of those “good” reasons. But your child’s athletic future is in the back of your mind, right? It certainly was in mine.

I was the head coach of my sons’ baseball teams the first time each of them stepped on a Little League field. I took on my role extremely seriously, thinking it was a key part of their development. At the end of practices and games, I gave a speech to emphasize what they had learned that day.

One time, while giving my talk to a group of 5-year-old Little Leaguers, I was interrupted by one of the kids.

“Coach,” he told me. “Can you make it quick? I’m really tired.”

I laughed at the time, though I probably thought this came from one of the kids who “wasn’t serious.” I realized the other day it came from a boy who is now one of the best players on my son’s seventh-grade basketball team.

Here are three tips for parents gleaned from a decade of coaching youth sports:

Don’t fear failure

Steve Borelli and his son, Liam, enjoy a Little League awards presentation. Winning can be exhilarating, he says, but there are so many more lessons in youth sports.
Steve Borelli and his son, Liam, enjoy a Little League awards presentation. Winning can be exhilarating, he says, but there are so many more lessons in youth sports.

Not succeeding at something — whether it be an at-bat or a missed assignment on the court — provides valuable insight that can actually make your child better.

Don’t yell or interfere

Leave that to the coach. Shouting instructions to your son or daughter while they are playing will only confuse them and their teammates. Your personal instruction can come when you are away from the team. (And when I say “yell,” I mean reacting loudly and angrily to something. Cheering is encouraged.)

Own the results

Whether the team wins or loses, it won’t affect whether your child gets a college scholarship. (I promise.) In fact, if you want to go there, college coaches want to see how athletes react to defeat. Instead of pouting, encourage your kid to put an arm around a teammate who might have made a mistake in the game.

It’s sometimes hard to see the value of these tips in the heat of the moment. Catch yourself and stick with them. It will pay off.

Sincerely,

Coach Steve

Steve Borelli coached his sons, Connor (left) and Liam, from tee ball through middle school baseball.
Steve Borelli coached his sons, Connor (left) and Liam, from tee ball through middle school baseball.

Steve Borelli, aka Coach Steve, has been an editor and writer with USA TODAY since 1999. He spent 10 years coaching his two sons’ youth teams. He and his wife, Colleen, are now loving life as sports parents for a high schooler and middle schooler.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Parenting a young athlete? Here's 3 tips for a winning season