Parents often wonder what their role becomes when preparation for the race season is over and the competition season begins. New research published in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, investigates the athletes perspective on their parents behavior during competition. Competitive youth (age 12-15) tennis players were studied and although different from ski racing, the information has validity due to the ever present parent/athlete relationship in all youth sports. The findings are described below in order to guide parents to better understand what they can do help their child during the competition season.
- Parents should focus on supporting the athlete’s involvement in the sport rather than the outcome of the competition. You want to give them support not put pressure on them . By focusing on the outcome(aka winning) the athlete may become nervous and their performance may decrease. In turn, this could make it even harder for them to focus on their next run or race.
- Athletes don’t value technical or tactical tips from their parents if the parents have limited knowledge of the sport. Your athlete knows you are truing to help them but sometimes it just confuses the, causing lack of confidence in their own ability.
- Athletes prefer feedback regarding effort and attitude. Athletes are aware when they don’t have their best race don’t need to be reminded by their parents that it was not their best.
- Athletes notice when the tone of a parent’s voice does not match the comments made, or the body language. This may make the athlete feel under pressure and become distracted. By staying relaxed and showing support to your athlete they will relax and most likely their performance will improve.
- Athletes expressed the need, and like when their parents provide practical support. Parents can help “prepare and recover” for their next race.
The relations between athlete and parent is always complex and the above findings are only a few suggestions to help athletes reach their potential. The most productive way to understand your athlete’s likes and dislikes during the race season is to simply talk about it. Ask your athlete about what helps them have the most confidence and have fun. By Helping them to achieve these two things the will be on their way to finding their potential!
Knight, C. J., Boden, C. M., & Holt, N.L. (2009) Junior Tennis Player’s Preferences for Parental Behaviors. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22, 377-391.