Next time you are watching your son’s game, have a look around at the supporters on the sidelines. Some parents will be cheering, others moaning about the referee or the team, while others will be quietly observing. But what kind of sports parenting works best in encouraging your son to do his best, while supporting his interests and passion for playing?

There is no right answer; however, there are a few things to bear in mind when handling your son and his sport. Establishing a healthy “sports parenting” relationship can do great things for your personal bond. There are three important influences in your son’s sports development – the coach, his teammates and you as the parent.

Unsure of how you can influence your son? Here are a few tips to help you.

  • Make sport fun. In any learning situation, it is proven that when a child is having fun they learn the most. When the game becomes too serious, it is common for athletes to lose interest or repeat poor performances. If it appears that your son is no longer interested in the game, find out why in a gentle way. If it has anything to do with his school team or past failures, it is worth considering sending him on a course like ours at the Investec International Rugby Academy. We often find that players who are despondent about the game get a revived passion for it by working with their rugby icons.
  • Winning and losing are not factors in success and failure. Consider this scenario: a player gives the game his all but his team still loses. The parent may be so consumed by the game outcome that he/she becomes critical of the player’s performance. The success here is that the player did his best, not that his team lost. On the other hand, if the team won the game but performed below their average, it is important not to give too much praise for winning. As sportswriter, Grantland Rice says: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
  • Don’t coach. You may know a lot about the game but you are not the coach. It is important to understand the team dynamic at hand here. Your role as the sports parent is support and to be a player’s number one fan. If the team loses and the player is visibly upset, the last thing that he wants to hear from you is what he did wrong in the game. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be interested in his game, just don’t be his coach.
  • Always remember to build their self-esteem. Performance is based on how a player feels about themselves. Encourage goalsetting but remember that for goals to boost his self-esteem, they need to be his and not yours.

Understanding your role in his rugby game is vital in that you must play a role but understand what that role is. Your son and his coach need you in their team to ensure that he loves the game, wants to improve, has a good mind-set and feels confident about his personal goals. If these traits are installed in him for rugby, he will be able to take them with him in life and apply it to other situations as coping mechanisms.