I love watching sports. College football is my favorite, but I enjoy cheering for most sports. My four children play several sports, so I have many opportunities to support them. Attending sporting events allows me to think about how I act and what I'm teaching my kids about sportsmanship.

Cheering for children during sporting events is important. However, parents need to be careful and keep things in perspective as they support their children. Keep these five ideas in mind as you cheer your children on.

Stay positive

This tip may seem obvious, but sometimes even parents get caught up in the emotion of a game. Cheering should be supportive. Yelling is not cheering. If your child makes a mistake or isn't playing well, make sure your cheering stays positive. "Good effort!" and, "You can do it!" might help your child keep playing even when their team is losing.

Cheer for everybody

No one wants to hear you cheer loudly for your child, and only your child. Learn the names of other children on the team. Praise their efforts and successes. If you don't know names, or your child isn't currently playing, you can cheer for the whole teams. "Good work, defense!" and, "Go Tigers!" are examples of generic whole-team cheers. Feel free to cheer a bit for the other team as well, or at least politely support their efforts.

Follow the crowd

Truly, you can cheer as loud as you want and be loud, but if you're the only one acting that way, it may come across as obnoxious. I try to follow the mood of the crowd when I cheer. If people are noisy and active, I will be too. If parents are focused and quieter, I won't cheer as loudly. I don't want to distract others from their experience watching their kids, but being part of an excited crowd can be a lot of fun.

If you are new to a specific team or sporting venue, be sure to know and observe the rules for cheering. Many arenas and fields have posted guidelines. In my son's basketball league, they have a player read guidelines for cheering before every game. Since organizations have taken the time to make guidelines to keep everyone safe and happy, it is in everyone's best interests to follow them.

What the kids want

My oldest daughter is mortified when I cheer for her, but my son likes to hear positive encouragement throughout a game. Consider your own child's opinion when you decide how much you are going to cheer. Your cheering might distract a serious child from doing his or her best, or let your less confident child know you know he can do it.

Remember, it's just a game

Unfortunately, parents lose their cool at sporting events more often than they should. I've read several such stories in news reports. As you cheer, keep in mind that it is just a game, and that children are competing. Sports are getting more intense at earlier ages. Your cheering will influence the way your children feel about their experience in sports. Do you want them to have fun as they use their bodies and compete? If so, make sure your cheering reflects that idea.

Children know their parents are their biggest fans. Make sure you show them your best side and a good example of sportsmanship as you cheer them on. Go team!

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