Little League baseball, May 2010 - 49Do you want your kids to act cocky on the court or field?

My husband and I were at a local high school basketball game recently and observed a kid who was very cocky, hot-dogging it and carrying himself with a very arrogant air.

Do you like seeing this in athlete?

In most cases, I’d say that arrogance and conceit are not earmarks of a team player.

I’m not talking about confidence–that’s a whole different matter.

If your child is a gifted athlete, cockiness will become very a tempting behavior. The coaches will tell him he is good. The paper will tell him he is good. The local TV will tell him he is good. His friends will tell him he is good. The teachers will tell him he is good. And YOU will tell him he is good.

And that’s all good.

But that’s a lot for a kid to take in without succumbing to cockiness. That’s why God gave parents to kids. It’s our job to keep them humble. And here’s how you can do just that:

  1. Model humility. It always starts with what YOU do.
  2. Teach that there is no “i” in team. No matter how good your kid is, they cannot do it alone. Period.
  3. Show no special treatment. By parents or by teachers. Athletes should be held to same standards as non-athletes, not given favors.
  4. Remind them of their responsibility as leaders. Other kids look up to athletes. It comes with the territory of being athletic. Whether or not they like that, it’s a fact. And because of that, they need to take that responsibility seriously. My husband has always told his football and softball players that he expects them to be leaders and good examples on and off the field.
  5. Offer them balance. When your kids play sports, it’s very tempting for sports to take over the entire household. But that can cause sports burnout. Instead, advocatebalance. Let them grow in other areas of life–other interests, hobbies, adventures.
  6. Praise them and their teammates. Recognize your child’s hard efforts, and point out the hard work of their teammates. This is just another way of instilling the no-I-in-team mentality.
  7. Don’t support the “victim” mentality. According to your kid, there will always be someone else to blame. A blind ref. Selfish teammates. Even the stupid coach. Don’t feed that in your kid. Because unfortunately, that victim mentality will spill over into other areas of his life. Very unattractive.
  8. Teach respect for coaches, teammates, refs. This is the hard part. There are coaches who are clueless, teammates who are selfish and obnoxious, and refs who are incompetent. It’s hard to respect them. But we must tell our kids to respect them as human beings, even if we don’t like the way they do their jobs. It all starts at home, folks. Our kids are like sponges; they will drip out what they soak up. What are you pouring into your kids? Are you teaching them to respect others?

In our house, swagger is done in fun. When my kids come home, they know they can joke about how good they are, and we laugh because we know that they are teasing. But when they head out the door and enter the field or court, they know that the swagger stays home where it belongs; and humble leadership rules.

Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc