INDIANAPOLIS — Fall sports have been underway in Indiana schools, and winter sports are rapidly approaching. Many parents are attending soccer, volleyball and football games to watch our kids play, but are parents supporting their kids the best they can?
Q: What would you say is the No. 1 mistake that you have seen parents of athletes make?
Mrs. Brinker: Honestly, I would say that the most important thing that you can do for your child is to be positive. There are so many benefits to kids participating in school sports. It helps boost confidence, gives a sense of community and accomplishment and encourages hard work. What your child wants to see is that you are there and that you are enjoying watching them play. When parents begin to berate refs, coaches, other athletes, or sometimes their own child, they are killing their kiddo's confidence and their enjoyment for the game. Try to maintain positivity.
Q: You mentioned being upset with coaches, what should parents do if they do have a disagreement with how the coach handles something?
Mrs. Brinker: I would go back to being positive. You need to think of a coach as your ally. You are on the same team. You both want the kids to do well. You also must realize that you have a very specific, vested interest in your child, while the coach sees the bigger picture. If you treat the coach as an adversary, expect your child to do the same. If you do have a disagreement, you should reach out to them privately but certainly never during a game or practice setting.
Q: A study came out that shows that 40 million children are involved in youth sports each year, but 70% of them have dropped out by the time they are 13. Why do you think this is?
Mrs. Brinker: Well I think one reason is that it does get tougher and more physically challenging as kids get older. There is also often more emphasis put on winning than there is on development of skill and character, and this can be intense for kids sometimes. If they are particularly good, there is a high standard set for winning and sometimes that pressure is overwhelming. If their team isn't very good, those emphasized losses can really hurt their ego.
Q: Final advice for parents?
Mrs. Brinker: Enjoy the now. If you are constantly thinking on to the next season, the next team, the next competition, you are missing out on the season you are in now. Let the coach be the one who is looking ahead to future seasons. Leave your kid alone on the ride home from games instead of talking about what they can improve next time. Let them teach you something about the game while you play in the backyard. Give lots of smiles and limit judgment as much as you can.