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The overlooked element of kids sport.

I recently had the opportunity to share with some of the parents of the Warwick Senators Basketball Club. As part of this facilitation, I was able to share about the often-overlooked element of kids in sport – our emotional experience as parents.

The Power of Emotions

There is great power in our emotions, they drive us towards action. Behaviours whether positive or negative, often have an emotional beginning. Emotions are a significant part of the fight, flight or freeze response to threat. When we experience a reward or threat signal, our mind releases hormones that prepare our bodies for action. If it is rewarding, we can flow through thought, decision, and action. However, if we perceive a threat, then we move quickly towards behaviour and action. It is on this pathway, that emotions can spring forth and surprise not only ourselves but those around us.

“As parents, we are often unaware of the deep flowing emotions that are connected with our kids.”

How does this show up for us as parents?

If I have seen my child improving and growing as a player, then I am filled with pride and enjoy their success. I can become connected to their aspirations and their dreams. My thoughts are on the weekends game, and some emotions connect with these thoughts - creating an undercurrent of expectation. Now, game day is here, and I am excited but nervous. I begin to think about the possibility of winning and about my child doing well. However, when the game begins, things are not working out how I imagined. My child isn’t playing so well, the team is losing, and though I am not aware; the brain is releasing hormones because I am experiencing a threat to what I aspired would occur. I move past thought and decision and I am propelled into behaviour and action. This may show up as increased perspiration, over-talking, a desire to leave the environment, or I may even shout at a referee call.

This may be abnormal for me in any other area of life. It may be confronting to experience such a scenario. As parents we don’t plan this, it surprises us. The important element is to become aware and open to shifting what is happening for us. Developing awareness of these experiences, allows us to bring change. When we reflect upon something that has occurred and are open to understanding what is driving this, it can help us prepare for the future. We can plan how we want to show up as a parent in support of our kids.

The Power of experiences

There is another element at play. As parents, we hold powerful stories that not only guide our lives but can also influence the lives around us. We can parent out of these experiences, and our stories can become our child’s stories.

How does this show up for us as parents?

If I need to be perfect because my acceptance, value and love are connected to my performance; then as a parent, I can influence my kids out of this need. If I apply this to sport, then I can move into wanting my child to exhibit those elements, that see them perform perfectly. I need everything to go well and can become agitated when they don’t.

I can begin to place blame on those I perceive are working against what I want to see and experience.

However, I can unknowingly make it the experience of others. My agitation can overflow, and my actions become uncomfortable for those around me. More importantly, I can influence my child’s thinking and emotions, as well as their experience of the game.

The saying ‘vicariously living through our kids, isn’t always about the sport itself. Rather it can be through the stories that run within us and influence our perceptions of reality.

Becoming aware of this can assist us in shifting these stories, anchoring them, and assessing if they are true. In doing so, we can step back and realise that what we have experienced in life, isn’t always our child’s experience and doesn't have to be.

“The saying ‘vicariously living through our kids, isn’t always about the sport itself. Rather it can be through the stories that run within us and influence our perceptions of reality..”

The power of self-awareness

Self-awareness is developing the ability to connect with your feelings, thoughts and the actions of your body. It is to be present and focus on what is happening within you. Asking questions can be a great starting point.

  1. What is causing me to become upset about this?

  2. What is causing me to breathe so fast?

  3. Was the referee or umpire as bad as I thought?

Asking questions allows a moment of reflection and an opportunity to learn about yourself. Understanding what is taking place, allows a shift in how we want to respond. We are not stuck, we can move in a different direction.

An offering of support

Part of our offering is to provide workshops with parents on what may be taking place for them and how they can better process their moods and emotions. These presentations provide tools to assist sporting clubs and parents to align, developing positive experiences for sporting communities. We would love to discuss this further with you, so please reach out to us for more information.


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