Parents and coaches play such a key role in a child’s development and enjoyment of their sports experience. Children’s’ top reason for playing sports is to have fun. As coaches and parents, we must do our part and prioritize the enjoyment to be had in sports. It’s what children want and need. Parents can help guide their children in sports, but children need to make the choices and set the expectations based on their wants and needs. Regardless of your child’s level of participation in gymnastics, his or her performance will be greatly influenced by expectations–and unwanted expectations can produce unwanted pressure and consistently result in subpar performance.
Expectations are often about outcomes and results, neither of which can be controlled, and this unproductive thinking can make children tense, tight and tentative. Expectations come from so many different sources; the coach that has a “win-at-all-cost” mentality and needs results to justify their existence, the parent who becomes overzealous in their attempts to inspire their child or worse–living vicariously through them, outside noise from fans or people wanting to win, or even from the child who might get caught in the trap of measuring self-worth by external success.
Parents are in a great position to help deflate this performance pressure by helping their children understand that the process of learning, and having fun is the most important thing to focus on. When children embody these types of expectations, taking them into their nervous systems, they relax, become calm, remain focused, and play their best. These are process expectations as opposed to outcome expectations. Here are four ways parents can let go of expectations and help their child enjoy sports more:
Positive Coaching Alliance stresses that if a young gymnast loves the game, then he or she will play longer and harder, which will, in turn, lead to more success. The way parents can inspire this love is by giving their child ownership over the experience, focusing on enjoyment, and making sure those things build their intrinsic motivation to participate in gymnastics. The only way children can truly improve is if they are the ones striving to get better.
USA Gymnastics is a proud partner of Positive Coaching Alliance- a national non-profit organization on a mission to serve as a catalyst for a positive youth sports culture in all communities across the U.S. To learn more about PCA, visit www.positivecoach.org.