As a volunteer youth sports coach, I have the opportunity to meet a lot of great kids and their parents. One thing I’ve realized is that in youth sports a great team isn’t just made up of talented players, but involved parents. So when choosing players, I often consider the quality of the parent as much as the child. Having good, supportive, engaged parents makes the season more successful.
This season is no exception. I am coaching my son’s Jupiter Tequesta Athletic Association (JTAA) 9- and 10- year-old flag football team. While we have improved with every game, we have had more losses than wins this season. When faced with adversity and a lack of traditional success, I expect some backlash from the players’ parents. Not so. They have been remarkably supportive. Nearly half of the players’ parents participate as on-field coaches – a commitment that requires time, patience and training. Those who are not coaching maintain a positive presence at every practice and game.
Being present at practice and games is a great way to show your child that you support his efforts and are part of the team. It also allows you to watch how the coaches interact with your child and the other players which is an important part of keeping them safe.
Parents who are involved with their children’s sports teams are in a better position to protect them. That’s just one of the points mentioned in the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s new parent resource, Tips for Protecting Child Athletes from Sexual Abuse. The tip sheet also has information to help parents assess youth-sports programs’ sexual abuse prevention practices and identify troubling behaviors.
In addition to protecting children from harm, parents can also learn more about how to promote a positive youth sport experience overall. JTAA uses PAYS, the National Alliance for Youth Sport’s video-based parent education program, to help make sports parents aware of their roles and responsibilities and to help them make their children’s experiences more enjoyable. Parents also learn what they should expect from the coaches and league administrators. Laying this groundwork at the beginning encourages open communication and allows for a positive sports environment for kids and adults.
A child’s youth sports experience is formed by the adults on the field and the sidelines. The parents on my team create Shutterfly pages to share pictures, snack schedules and communicate special announcements. One team mom (my wife) even provides laminated roster cards to each parent with the players’ names and jersey numbers so they can cheer for every player.
A positive experience will encourage players to continue playing sports and develop a lifelong interest in physical activity. So let’s get off the bench and make youth sports safe and fun for everyone.
How has parental involvement -- or a lack of -- played a role your team's development? Share your experiences in the comments section.
Bio: Ed Russo is the Program Manager for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Mr. Russo works with educators, law enforcement, community leaders, and government officials to implement child safety presentations in schools and communities across the state of Florida.
Mr. Russo has over eighteen years of teaching and coaching experience. He is currently a volunteer Flag Football Coach and Roller Hockey Coach & League Director for the Jupiter-Tequesta Athletic Association in South Florida. Mr. Russo is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a BS degree in Physical Education.