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12 Ways to Be Your Child's Biggest Fan

12 Ways to Be Your Child's Biggest Fan

Every spring, we parents go a little crazy. We sit on metal benches for hours in the hot sun, sweating bullets. For dinner, we eat Sweet Tarts, stale popcorn, and nachos doused with imitation cheese. We endure rain, wind—and sometimes even snow—just to watch our kids play the wild, wonderful game of Little League baseball.

Pop-ups and foul balls keep us practically spellbound, as does the occasional strikeout. We cheer, hoot, and holler as eight-year-olds run bases at a glacial pace and slide into home plate—not because the catcher has the ball, but just because sliding is fun. And even though Little League games can be long on walks and short on action, we're captivated. Here's why: a child we love is out there playing. And that's pretty special.

But sometimes, parents take Little League—and children's sports in general—too seriously. I know I have. It's easy to get so focused on the competition, the cookie-dough fundraisers, and the pressures of the season that we lose sight of the reason we're there: to encourage our kids.

Since most Little League players have only been alive for a decade—or less, positive, healthy encouragement is essential. Kids need their parents to be their biggest fans.

Here Are 12 Ways to Be Your Child's Biggest Fan:

1. Be a fan of having fun. 

Children are first attracted to sports just for the fun of playing. Try to help them enjoy the experience. Urge them to make good friends on the team. Host a team cookout. Celebrate wins. Encourage them after losses. Laugh about all the crazy things that happen during the season. The more children enjoy a sport, the more they want to play it.

2. Be a fan of character. 

Of course, you're going to cheer when your child hits a home run or slides into second base (who wouldn't?). But be sure to cheer for more than that. Applaud hard work, courage, and being coachable. Compliment good teamwork and being respectful to the opposing team. Remember, a killer pitch or a perfect bunt is only beneficial for a season, but good character is beneficial for life. Here's a great character verse to share with your child: "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young. Set an example for the believers in what you say and in how you live." 1 Tim: 4:12 NIRV

Related articles: How to Teach Your Child Perseverance

3. Be a devoted fan, not a demanding one. 

If you're a fan, you are not a coach, even if you once played in the major leagues. Devoted fans don't yell at the players; they yell for the players. They don't give pitching advice or scold batters for being nervous. They watch the game but don't try to direct it. Instead, fans come to observe the action, applaud the effort, and share the moment with their kids.

4. Be a realistic fan. 

While your child's game is important, recognize that it's not the final game of the World Series. In ten years, you probably won't remember the score. In fact, you may not even remember the entire season. Here's how you can keep youth baseball in perspective: by remembering its goal. Jim Thompson, founder of the Positive Coaching Alliance, said, "The goal [of youth sports] is to develop better athletes and better people, and trying to win is only part of that."

5. Don't be a punishing fan. 

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Once I saw a dad push his son up against the car and cuss him out—for accidentally dropping the ball. I've known kids who were grounded for grounding out. Punishing a child for making a game error is entirely unfair. Never punish, belittle, or scold your child for making an error in any sport. It will wound your child emotionally and harm your future relationship if you do. Remember Colossians 3:21: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart."

6. Be a careful fan. 

In a recent survey, hundreds of college athletes were asked: "What is your worst memory of youth sports?" An overwhelming number said: "The ride home with my parents after games." When the same athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, their overwhelming response was this: "I love to watch you play." So be careful: use the ride home only to confirm what your child did right and to say, "I love watching you play."

7. Don't be an out-of-control fan. 

Being a parent in the stands isn't easy. Watching your child struggle can unleash your competitive side and rekindle past pain (or pride). So if you feel yourself boiling over inside, take a break from the game. Don't let your emotions spiral out of control. Continue to evaluate your behavior throughout the season. If you say or do something disrespectful, then own it. Apologize to your child. Apologize to the coach or to other parents. Remember, your child is watching. Be the kind of fan you'd want them to be.

8. Be a loving fan. 

It's crucial that your child understands one thing above all else—that your love does not hinge on a good performance. That a high score won't change your love. Neither will game stats or batting averages. Make it clear that your love has nothing to do with the game and everything to do with your child. As you support your child in sports, pray with your child over the season. Pray to learn and to grow in love. As the Bible says, "May the Lord make your love grow. May it be like a rising flood. May your love for one another increase." 1 Thess. 3:12, NIRV

9. Be a hard-working fan. 

Your child can't play ball without your support. Your financial, logistical, and emotional help is needed to have a successful season. So buy your child a good glove and some cleats. Get them to practice on time. Work a shift in the concession stand or cut grass at the park. Be a team mom, or keep stats. Research shows that kids are more likely to have a positive experience when parents are involved in their sports activities.

10. Don't be a trash-talking fan. 

Baseball can teach children much more than physical skills. It can teach them to respect others, even when things don't go their way. Set a good example by respecting the umpire, even if you disagree with the call (this one is really tough for me). Be respectful of the other team—they're just kids after all. And show respect to the coach, even if you disagree with his methods. If you have a concern, call and discuss it after the game (not during the game). And if you must discuss the coach with others, be kind. (The coach's wife may be sitting next to you.)

Photo credit: © Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

11. Be a grateful fan. 

Many children worldwide can't participate in sports for one reason or another. Be grateful that your child has the opportunity. Be thankful for the numerous volunteers who work together to make the season possible. Be the gracious fan who appreciates players on other teams. Remember to thank the referees, the team moms, and the coaches at the end of the season. The more grateful you are, the more positive the experience will be for your child. The Bible says: "Always give thanks to God the Father for everything…" Eph. 5:20, NIRV

12. Be a fan no matter what. 

After a crushing loss, find something positive to say to your child in the sensitive moments. Avoid pointing out faults or crucial errors. Remember, there will be other games and other moments. How you handle a tough loss can make a big difference, even in the next game. But more importantly, it can make a big difference in your future relationship with your child.

Baseball season can provide rich memories and life lessons for your children. Remember to keep in mind who the game is for. Let the season be their defining point, not yours. And most of all, let your kids just be kids and play ball.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

May Patterson has been writing and teaching Bible study classes for years. Recently she released her first book, “Seeking a Familiar Face.” Now, she has just released its companion Bible study workbook. May trained in small group dynamics for over ten years with Bible Study Fellowship, serving as a leader for four years. She has written for various magazines including Focus on the Family, Upper Room Magazine and iBelieve, and is a sought-after public speaker. May is married to her dear friend, Mike, and they have three grown children. She loves to tell stories, laugh, and talk about the adventure of seeking God. Read more from May by visiting: