Hockey is back!

Double-doubles, electric heaters, and bleacher seats are about to be home for thousands of parents across Canada.

It’s the season of winter sports again so let’s have a refresher on how to be a great sports dad.

Let your kids choose which sports they play

We all remember our glory days of sports. Some of us – guilty – tell those stories to this day. And sharing those stories with your kids is great. Chances are they are going to want to follow in your footsteps – but if they don’t – all is okay.

I know most dads reading this understand they should let their kids choose the sport they want to play. But even harmless comments can create pressure on your kids to do what you did. Be careful of subtle influences that may be steering them into something. Your kids don’t want to disappoint you so don’t lead on that you really hope they play your favourite sport too.

Our 6-year-old is getting into sports now. When he was young we put him into every type of sports for tots we could find. It doesn’t have to be expensive season-long commitments either. Check your local community center for a drop in soccer or basketball. Play street hockey. Take them to the pool. You never know what your kids might be passionate about.

Take an interest in whichever sports they choose

“Okay,” your inner voice says, “what happens if my kids choose a sport I don’t like?”

It’s a great thing! Now is an opportunity to learn something new. Maybe it’s a sport you’ll find a passion for as well. The most important point is to take an interest in it.

You can take an interest in the new sport in a variety of ways:

    • Help your kids practice their new sport. Take the initiative and ask them to go throw the ball, go public skating, or shoot hoops
    • Learn with them. Watch YouTube videos, read magazines, and ask friends. Be an active participant in your kids improving and learning their sport
    • Get your kids to teach you. Ask your kids how to play. Ask them what’s the best way to do something or how they learned a skill

Showing your genuine interest is an excellent way to make your kids feel supported. My son was filled with pride when I asked him to show me how he learned to shoot a basketball. When I told him how hard of a time I had learning crossovers when skating and asked him to show me how he did them so well, he smiled ear to ear.

Hold the post-game critique

I believe there is a scientific discovery waiting to happen. This discovery will find the part of DNA that triggers dads to give advice on the car ride home from a game. Fight the urge and you’ll be a better dad for it.

Think about how you feel after doing something athletic. Tired – physically and mentally. Even a well-meaning comment can be taken poorly when your child is that drained. Wait for your kids to ask you for that advice. I know I loved those discussions in the car when I played. But there were times I was already down. In those times I didn’t need to hear how I could have played better or what I did wrong. It is best to support first – help second.

Instead of giving advice, pick out a special moment. Ask about their teammates. Let them know how much you enjoyed watching them and the hard work they put in. These comments and questions will help your child feel supported. Your love and approval should never come off as dependent on how they did in sports.

Be present

The demands on our time are becoming more and more. It’s hard to balance everything we have to do as dads. And with some of the scheduling nowadays, how am I supposed to do an hour commute and get to a 4:30 practice?

I don’t mean to guilt anybody with demands on their time. It’s hard for everybody, especially with more than one kid. But whenever possible, do everything you can to be at those games. There is no better feeling as a kid to see your parents up in the stands smiling as you play. Every time my son does something he’s proud of, he immediately looks up to find my wife and me with a big beaming smile. It’s the best feeling in the world.

Besides the physical presence, put the phone away. When you do have the ability to be there, be present and live in the moment. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling as a kid to do something you are proud of only to look up and see dad’s face buried in his phone. Take a break from technology and be there for them. Live in that moment and be proud of them – and selfishly – it’s a good feeling to see them improve.

Be a role model

You know this by now but you have a ton of influence on your kids’ lives. Even subtle behaviours will be picked up on. I’m shocked by some of the things our 6-year-old sees and asks about.

Show your kids that happiness isn’t tied to how well you do in sports. Don’t put down other players on their team and speak poorly of other people. Don’t dwell on mistakes. Tell them about the process of hard work and effort.

Be the role model that enables your kids to take away the important lessons from sports:

    • Teamwork
    • Hard work
    • Dedication
    • Perseverance

We have focused on being great role models a lot with our oldest. My wife and I show him that we care far more about him listening to his coach, being a teammate and trying his best. We don’t care how far he hit a ball or how well he shot the puck.

We’ve seen the benefits of being a positive influence and trying to be a great role model for him. In his last t-ball game, he picked up a ball and gave it to another kid so he had a turn to throw it. That will always make me far more proud than having the kid that hit the ball the furthest off the tee.

Being a sports dad is an incredibly rewarding experience. It takes a lot of effort to be a great sports dad though. We all are striving to be great dads or you wouldn’t be here on Dad Central. Keep these tips in the back of your mind and you’ll be a better sports dad for it.

All the best to all the kids and parents embarking on the winter sports season. Hope it’s a great one.

About The Author – Chat Montgomery

Chad is a father of three young boys. He is also the co-founder of Parent Intel – a site he started with his wife Chelsea to help fellow parents. Chad loves to use his life experience to help other parents on their parenting journey and tries to do so using personal experiences to connect with readers.

Chad has experience in a variety of careers and life experiences. He also has a number of hobbies – ranging from 3D printing to sports. He uses his experiences to provide parents with personal stories on various parenting topics which he shares on his website.

Chad is also using his writing talents to embark on freelance writing where he specializes in content writing.

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