Setting your Child Up for Success on Competition Days

As we are heading into our first competition of Season 11, we wanted to share all our BEST TIPS for how parents can help set their children up for success at competition.

And by success, we do not mean coming in first in their division, or even hitting a perfect routine.

A successful competition looks like:

  • everyone arriving on time, ready to compete with little stress or worry
  • athletes are excited to show off their routines
  • athletes leave the competition proud of themselves and their team
  • teams bond and build trust between teammates and coaches
  • athletes leave looking forward to their next competition

Tips for setting your child up for success on competition days:

1. Be Organized – Make sure you have everything you’ll need for competition day packed in advance of the day: cheer uniform, hair accessories, make up, cheer shoes, healthy snacks, water, etc. If you are scrambling on the day of competition to find needed items, your stress will become their stress, and will undoubtably distract your children from what they should be focused on.

2. Be Positive – Your words will impact your child’s feelings. Do not talk about being nervous or anxious (even if you feel those things). Do talk about how excited you are to see them perform and ask them what they are excited about and what their favourite part of the routine is. Kids read your energy – keep it positive!

3. Be Intentional – Even if things do not go as planned on the competition floor, tell your child you are proud of him or her. Children look to parents for guidance on how they should feel. Hide any disappointment you may feel for the sake of influencing your child to feel proud of themselves. Even if mistakes were made, they still got out in front of a crowd, worked as a team and gave it their all; this is something to be proud of. As a coach, the last thing I want is for my athletes to think that a mistake at competition is the end of the world – I need them to view it as a normal part of sport and as a sign it’s time to work harder once back in the gym.

4. Be a Team Player – Allow your child time to have fun with their teammates at competition. Get to know your fellow cheer parents in order to build a community where your child will feel supported, seen and cared for. These relationships have long term impacts on your child’s enjoyment of sport.

5. Be a Parent, NOT a Coach – on the ride home after a competition, they need you to be their parent, not their coach. Coaches will tell their athletes what they did well and what they need to improve on. As their parent you should ask them how THEY think the competition went. Ask what their favourite part of the day was. And then listen and validate all their feelings. Why would any young athlete want to compete again if they get a lecture on the way home and end the day feeling that they disappointed their parents?

6. Finally, do not focus on placings! Do not talk about who they are competing against and what placing you think they’ll end up with. Kids listen and internalize all of this. If they think placings are important to you, this will amplify any disappointment if the desired placing doesn’t happen. In a judged sport there can be very unpredictable placings at competition. What teams can control is how hard they work to do their best on the competition floor. Do not encourage your child to focus on achieving a goal they cannot control – this always leads to disappointment. The last thing coaches want their athletes thinking about when taking the floor is what placing or medal they’ll get. We want them thinking about their choreography, about the technique they’ve been taught, and about being present to the teammates they are sharing the floor with. I’ve been a coach for over 20 years – when an athlete asks me “what teams are we competing against?” my answer is always the same “we are competing against our last best run of this routine, the other teams do not matter”. Who do you want your children focused on? The other teams, or their own team?

We all want kids to stay in sport, because we KNOW sport is good for their mental, physical and emotional health. Help make competition a positive experience (no matter how your child performs) and they’ll keep progressing and growing – which is the goal all parents have for the children they love.

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