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How to Be a Good Sports Parent

Unintended Pressure

Let's go to the replay: All season your pre-meet speeches to your young swimmer consisted of one simple phrase: "Do your best." You commit to keeping mum after the final lap, regardless of his performance. Last week he finished in the top three and you were cheerful and chatty, while staying faithful to your rule of no "shop talk." This week he was second-to-last. On the way home you don't bring up the meet -- or anything else. You clutch the steering wheel and silently stare at the road ahead.

Breakdown the penalty: Many parents don't understand their own attitudes about winning and losing, observes Joel H. Fish, coauthor of 101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent (Simon & Schuster). "Watching your kid compete is a very emotional experience," he says. "You need to prepare for your spectating emotions." Review your favorite on-the-spot stress-reduction techniques. (The ones that don't involve beer and yelling, that is.)

Your winning new move: Once you have a handle on your feelings, explicitly praise your kid when he swims hard, regardless of the outcome. And watch that body language. When he pulls himself out of the pool, the first face he'll look for will be yours.