12 Ways to Keep Gymnastics Fun for Your Child
The number one reason kids quit sports: it was no longer fun.
Of course, some of sports no longer being fun is natural. Children’s passions and interests change over time. What a child enjoyed at 7 may not appeal at 11.
And, as a sport gets more difficult or time consuming, a child may discover that they do not wish to devote that amount of time or effort to the activity. Again, this is normal. Priorities can shift and change as children mature.
But, just as often, it is something external that makes the sport not fun. And often that something is the adult in the young athlete’s life.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that parents can and do influence a child’s experience of sports. From motivation to confidence in their ability to their attitude toward competition and their actual enjoyment of the sport, there is plenty a parent can do to make sports more (or less) enjoyable for their child.
Here are a dozen tips to help your child have a great experience.
- Focus on improving skills and not on the result of the competition. De-emphasize winning. Your child and her coach will place enough emphasis on it, so you don’t need to add it.
- Keep your own nerves in check prior to and during the meet. Your nerves make your child more nervous. In one study, young wrestlers who perceived high levels of parental pressure to wrestle were found to have a significantly higher state anxiety prior to competition.
- Do not offer external rewards for performance. The gift of winning a game or achieving a goal should be the feelings of pride and accomplishment that come with it, not a new IPhone. Marking the accomplishment with a special dinner or treat of ice cream is one thing, bribing the athlete to achieve a result is another.
- Remind your child how far she has come since she began the sport. It’s hard to remember how far an athlete has come, especially for the athlete him or herself. Children look to their parents for reinforcement of their progress.
- Do not put on any kind of pressure. Kids who say that their parents put no pressure on them have a higher enjoyment of their season and the opposite is true as well.
- Keep your expectations realistic. The statistics of kids making the pros, the Olympics or even college are quite low. It doesn’t mean you child doesn’t have a shot, but pinning your hopes on it is likely to lead to disappointment.
- Do not coach you child. Unless you are the child’s coach, then carry on. But even then, if you have the option to have another person coach you child, consider doing that. While it can work, it is more likely to make it less fun for both of you. Your child can have anyone coach them, not everyone can be their parent. Here are some things to consider if you are going to coach you own child.
- Say nothing negative about your child’s performance. I mean it. Nothing. She knows what her errors were; her coach pointed them out as well. You need not say a word. Remember the best six words in sports parenting: “I love to watch you play.”
- Don’t compare your child to teammates. Kids develop at their own rates. Comparing your child to their friends makes them resent their friends (and maybe you too).
- Let your child experience her emotions. Don’t rush in to fix everything. Sometimes by rushing in to fix you make it worse. Kids can feel big emotions and then they pass. Quite often, we adults hold onto their disappointments and slights far longer than do the kids.
- Reinforce the importance of fun. Ask you child “Are you having fun?” is a way to reinforce the importance you place of fun in their sports experience.
- Build on the sports experience to create happy childhood memories. Team celebrations, swim parties in the hotel and shared meals after meets are just a few of the happiest memories I have from my own sports experience.