Understanding Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is described as conscious knowledge of one's own behaviors and feelings. To exhibit self-awareness, parents must first recognize that they exhibit or think about behaving or feeling some way as their child trains and competes. Most often, parents do not realize they are displaying poor or unfamiliar behavior until someone makes them aware of it.

"Parents consistently indicate that watching their children compete can be very challenging, especially when they seem them struggling or disappointed. This challenge can be further exacerbated because parents know they are going to have to try and comfort their child after the competition and they often do not know what to say" (Knight & Newport, 2016).

Click the button to see how athletes want their parents to act while watching them play

What can Parents do?

In order for self-awareness to be effective, parents must learn how to reflect on their actions, behaviors, or feelings. To do so:

  • keep a tally of how many times you exhibit a behavior or say a specific phrase (positive and negative)

  • ask feedback from other coaches and/or parents based on what they see

  • journal your reactions after a practice or meet

Once you are aware of how you act, you are able to harness that negative energy and emotions and learn to create positive experiences for you child. You now understand that there is a likelihood of you acting a certain way when something specific happens to create a unique behavior.

There are also coping strategies that are common when reacting a certain way in sports:

  • relaxation techniques

    • deep breaths in and out, progressive muscle relaxation, and journaling

  • goal setting

    • "I will refrain from using a negative tone with my child if they perform poorly"

    • "I will congratulate all teammates after the meet"

    • "I will speak to coaches in a positive tone when I'm upset"

  • communicate clearly with other parents

    • support other parents because they too are likely going through similar feelings watching their child(ren) compete

    • ask parents how they feel watching their child(ren) compete and their coping strategies under stress

What can Coaches do?

As coaches, we need to create a strong coach-parent relationship by creating support groups, have empathy for parents throughout the season, and increase rapport and trust with the parent and athlete together.

Support groups can be as simple as facilitating a parent network. Here, parents are able to support and solve problems that may arise in the sport, issues about the team or club, or new ideas they would like to present. The purpose of a support group is to discuss together before blaming or criticizing others.

Some coaches are not parents, so they might not be able to relate to normal parental demands and stressors that any parent can face on a daily basis. What we can do is empathize and assess the needs of each individual parent to understand their needs as well as their child's needs.

To increase rapport and build trust, coaches must go beyond their normal working hours. Simple strategies to improve the bond are to ask how a parent's day is going, text/email frequent updates, and discuss their child's progress in the sport. Doing so helps the parent feel more involved and part of the team if they are not directly helping through a board or volunteer position.