For all the joy we get out of watching our daughters challenging themselves and succeeding on the diamond, the path towards being a great softball parent isn’t an easy one. Fastpitch, and sports in general, are the perfect training ground for kids to learn many of life’s lessons, but as parents, we often find ourselves pulled to intervening in their lessons. From the subtleties of encouragement and team dynamics, to the extremes of controlling our own competitive drives on bad calls, each practice and game (and even the off season) can be a challenge. So here are a few tips to get you thinking about how you can improve your softball parenting strategy and if you already use these tips, feel free to share them with other parents.
The Positive Coaching Alliance (https://www.positivecoach.org/) worked with Liberty Mutual Insurance on a project to support positive coaching and sports parenting. Teaching your child how to set goals not only shows them how to set and achieve goals, but also how to react when they don’t quite make it. A lesson they’ll take with them into old age and one we all could use a reminder of now and then! Check out the 100 point goal scorecard for suggested goals and how to help your kids get there.
The thrill and challenge of competition is what keeps us coming back to fastpitch softball, season after season (plus the comradery, friendships and fun!). However, competition should remain in a healthy balance. Many youth coaches suggest pushing kids to compete against themselves (this goes back to setting personal goals above). Your child can’t always control what the other team does, a bad hop, or sheer luck, but they can control how they perform in each game. And by understanding that the competition is within, they can measure their own progress, independent of any random outside factors.
Be Unconditionally Supportive
As parents, very few of us are trained coaches. Even fewer may have advanced experience in fastpitch softball, or teaching any sport for that matter. Still, it’s easy to feel the pull to coach your own child in the heat of the game, which in most cases is the wrong move. If you practice to be unconditionally supportive, your first move will naturally be to shower them with support, rather than a parent-coach’s opinion. I’m sure you’ve all experienced the cringe-worthy parent yelling unhelpful suggestions from the bleachers. Don’t be them.
Let Them Make it Their Own
In this great piece from SoftballExcellence.com Cindy Bristow provides some great advice. She suggests:
- Let them carry it: Carrying their own gear will give them independence and shift responsibility into their hands. We’d suggest this include remembering all of their gear all of the time. Sure you should try to help if they forgot something at home, but try to prevent forgotten items before they start. Give them a mental checklist to repeat over and over again, so that everything, from softball cleats to water bottles makes it to practices and games.
- Let them talk it: Cindy suggests letting our kids tell us about their accomplishments, instead of us always asking (or telling) them about their performance. And if they have an issue with the team or coach, talk to them about how to handle it, but let them take the initiative by talking to the coach themselves.
- Let them break it: This falls into the realm of free range parenting. Sometimes windows get broken during a backyard practice. It’s not the end of the world. Let them learn from their mistakes and…
- Let them fix it: Learning how to repair something physically, or in a broader sense, is one of life’s great lessons.
- Let them practice it: Give them the opportunity to practice on their own, outside of team practice. Whether it’s fitness and skills development by themselves in the backyard, or winter-weekend pitcher-catcher get-togethers, let them take control of their own development.
And finally, above all, make it fun!
Do you have any tips for parenting faspitch kids? What’s worked for your kid and what hasn’t? Let us know in the comments!.