Getting your daughter involved in sports can be a fantastic way to help her improve her health, develop positive habits, and cultivate more confidence and leadership skills. On top of that, sporting activities also deliver countless opportunities for father/daughter bonding.
We all know that an active child is a healthy child. Sometimes, as a father, it’s up to you to nudge your daughter into more physical activities to help her avoid the threat of childhood obesity, grow stronger muscles, build self-esteem, and learn the value of teamwork. However, there’s a fine line between a supportive dad and an overbearing parent screaming from the sidelines.
Encouraging your daughter to excel is all about finding balance. Here are a few ways that you can be the enthusiastic father, rather than the crazy sports parent.
1. Focus on Enjoyment, Not Winning
It’s always a thrill to see your daughter bring home the win for her team, or accomplish something incredible in her chosen sport. However, it’s important for both you and her to recognize that winning isn’t everything. Children who feel pressured to win are often too anxious to focus on the game. In fact, a focus on winning could lead to anxiety that drives your daughter to avoid competition and sports altogether.
The biggest motivation your daughter can have to play sports is fun. Instead of concentrating on the win, make sure that you encourage your child to simply do her best. At the end of the game, ask her what her favorite moment was, regardless of whether her team won or lost.
2. Help Her Set Her Own Goals
Goals are incredibly effective when it comes to motivating your daughter in sports. Helping her to set appropriate goals will ensure that she focuses on the aspects of the game that are in her control. For instance, you could ask your daughter which skills she’d like to improve upon and help her reach her goal. You can even help your kid chart her progress over time so she can see how well she’s doing.
Importantly, make sure that you don’t push your goals on her. As tempting as it might be, remember that your daughter is a unique person with her own unique interests. Allow her to define her own accomplishments.
3. Be a Volunteer
It’s all too easy for a dad to assume that if he wants to show his support, he needs to push himself into the center of his daughter’s interests. However, it can be far more effective to volunteer help than to assume the role of coach, manager, and leader.
Rather than yelling instructions during the game or taking over for your child’s teacher, let her come to you when she needs you. Your daughter will be sure to let you know if she needs you to coach her, or if she’s going to need some extra help with practice before a game. What matters most is that she knows you’re there for her, regardless of what she wants you for.
4. Let Her Learn from Her Mistakes
One of the biggest problems that loving parents struggle with is an overwhelming desire to fix everything. Your daughter isn’t a pro athlete, and even if she was, there’s a good chance she’s going to make mistakes on the path to success. Subdue your desire to tell her that every mistake is the result of the weather, the position of the sun, or the equipment she’s using.
Although it can feel like you’re helping by finding excuses, it’s usually much more beneficial to let your daughter own her mistakes and learn from them. Let her know that everyone stumbles sometimes, and help her come up with a plan to avoid the same mistakes in the future.
5. Give Her the Same Support — Win or Lose
Finally, while you know that you will love your daughter unconditionally no matter the outcome of a youth sports game, she might not realize that. It’s easy for a child to get confused when she sees the disappointment in your face after a loss compared to the elation that comes with a win. Show your child that you love her regardless of what happens. Don’t plan to go for ice cream after the game “if” she wins. Go either way. Celebrate her participation, not her success.
Researchers have found that the most effective thing you can say to your child after a game is: “I love to watch you play.” It’s not condolences for a loss or praise for a win. Showing your support and pride in your daughter is more than enough.
For your daughter, playing sports should be all about learning, growing, and having a great time. Kids love to play sports when they enjoy them, but if that sport becomes filled with pressure, your daughter could quickly lose interest. Learn how to walk the line between supportive and overbearing, and you should be on the right track to a happy, motivated, sporty child.