Understanding the Situation
One of the most common challenges that parents face is when their child is not the best player on their sports team.
This situation can be frustrating and sometimes disheartening, especially when your child is struggling with their own feelings of disappointment or frustration.
A study by The Aspen Institute in 2019 revealed that about 70% of kids stop playing organized sports by the age of 13 due to the pressure of not being ‘good enough’.
Foster a Growth Mindset
One of the first things you can do is to help your child develop a growth mindset.
This concept, coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, refers to the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.
Help your child understand that being the best at something isn’t always about natural talent, but often about perseverance, practice, and patience.
Encourage Effort, Not Outcome
Instead of focusing on the outcome (i.e., winning or losing), put emphasis on the effort your child is putting into the sport.
This will teach your child that progress and effort are just as important as, if not more important than, winning.
Praising effort can actually motivate children to work harder and perform better, according to a study by Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck.
Teach the Value of Teamwork
Sports are not just about individual performance, but about working as a team.
Teach your child about the importance of contributing to the team, even in ways that might not be immediately apparent.
For instance, they might not be the highest scorer but they could be great at supporting teammates, showing sportsmanship, or even lifting the team’s spirits when morale is low.
Keep Communication Open
Maintain an open line of communication with your child. Ask how they feel about their performance and the team’s dynamics.
By keeping these lines open, you can better understand their feelings and provide them with much-needed perspective and support.
Role of the Coach
Get to know the coach and understand their philosophy. If the coach is only focused on winning, it may not be the right environment for your child.
A good coach will foster a love for the sport, teamwork, and personal development over winning at all costs.
The Importance of Persistence
Remind your child that everyone develops at different rates and that it’s okay to not be the best right now.
Persistence is key in any sport.
A study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that young athletes who persisted in sports over the years had higher self-esteem and lower anxiety and depression levels compared to those who dropped out.
Dealing with Disappointment
Finally, it’s crucial to help your child cope with disappointment.
Disappointment is a part of life, and learning how to handle it at an early age can be beneficial.
Encourage your child to express their feelings and assure them that it’s okay to feel disappointed, but also highlight the importance of moving forward and trying again.
With these strategies, parents can support their children in sports, even if they are not the best on the team.
The main goal should always be to have fun, learn new skills, make friends, and develop a lifelong love for physical activity.
The Role of Parents in Sports
Parents play a significant role in how a child perceives their involvement and success in sports. As a parent, your role should primarily be a supporter.
Your kid needs to know that you’re there for them, cheering them on, regardless of their skill level or the team’s success.
Psychology Today reported that children who perceive their parents as supportive and not overly invested in the activity’s outcome are more likely to remain involved in sports and have higher levels of enjoyment.
Instilling the Concept of Sportsmanship
Another crucial point to emphasize to your child is the concept of sportsmanship.
Sportsmanship is all about playing fair, respecting teammates and opponents, and accepting both victories and defeats gracefully.
Teaching your child the essence of sportsmanship early on can help them handle the pressures of not being the ‘star player’ in the team and still enjoy the game.
Providing Emotional Support
The emotional support you provide as a parent is crucial when your child is not the best on the team.
Encourage them to express their feelings openly, and ensure them that it’s okay to feel upset or frustrated.
However, help them channel these emotions positively, focusing on the enjoyment of the sport rather than their performance.
Encourage Peer Interaction
Encouraging your child to socialize with their teammates outside of practice can help build stronger team bonds.
This can not only improve team dynamics but also provide your child with a sense of belonging, which can alleviate feelings of inadequacy or disappointment about not being the best player.
Reiterate the Benefits of Sports
Remind your child of the many benefits of participating in sports beyond winning and being the best.
These benefits include physical health, developing social skills, learning to work as part of a team, and more.
A review in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine indicates that youth sports participation is associated with numerous physical and mental health benefits that can be enjoyed irrespective of skill level.
Consider Professional Help if Needed
Lastly, if your child continues to struggle with feelings of frustration or disappointment, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
A child psychologist or a sports psychologist can provide strategies and techniques to cope with these emotions and boost self-esteem.
In conclusion, while it can be a challenge when your child isn’t the best on the team, it’s important to remember that sports offer much more than just the opportunity to be the best.
With the right support and perspective, children can thoroughly enjoy sports, create lasting memories, and develop vital life skills, regardless of their performance level.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: My child feels discouraged about not being the best. How can I motivate him?
A1: Encourage your child to focus on personal improvement rather than comparing himself to others. Highlight their improvement over time, no matter how small it may seem. Remember, sports are about more than just winning; they’re about team spirit, developing skills, and having fun.
Q2: Should I pull my child out of the team if they’re not playing well?
A2: Pulling your child out of the team because they are not playing well might not be the best solution. Instead, try to identify and work on areas where they might be struggling. Also, communicate with the coach about your concerns. Perhaps there are ways your child can improve or get more out of their participation.
Q3: What if my child wants to quit the team because they’re not the best?
A3: If your child wants to quit, first try to understand their reasons. If it’s because they’re not the best, talk about the benefits of participation beyond just being the best. However, if the sport is causing undue stress or unhappiness, it might be best to consider other activities that they might enjoy more.
Q4: How can I help my child deal with defeat or losses?
A4: Teach your child that everyone experiences losses and they are part of learning and growing. Use these moments as opportunities for teaching resilience and sportsmanship. Ensure them it’s okay to feel upset, but what matters most is getting back up and continuing to try.
Q5: Is it normal for my child to feel upset about not being the best?
A5: Yes, it’s completely normal. Feelings of disappointment or frustration can arise when children compare themselves to others. As a parent, it’s important to encourage them to focus on personal progress and the enjoyment of the activity, rather than just performance.