Be a Supportive Sport Parent

Jim Taylor Ph.D., Psychology Today, shares some of his concerns about the ‘sport parenting’ culture and he shares  suggestions on how to be a supportive sport parent.  Jim noted that while attending his daughter’s sporting event, he observed quite a few incidents that were disconcerting.  He noticed that many young athletes, the majority of whom were aged 12 and under, were reduced to tears at the events which are supposed to be fun.

Jim says, “If you dig down one layer to examine the causes of such painful reactions in young athletes, you’ll find expectations and pressure, primarily from parents, but also from peers (by way of comparison rather than ill intent) and our intense youth-sport culture. The weight of expectations is a crushing burden on the shoulders of young athletes. Imagine your children having to put a 50-pound weight vest when they enter the field of play and you’ll get a sense of what they feel and how it will make them perform.”

So how can parents help lift off this unwieldy, harmful and crushing burden from young athletes?  Here are some things that Jim asks you to consider:

  • Re-think why you encourage your kids to compete in sports (its not just about results).
  • Attend sporting events being light-hearted, it is catching.
  • Stay in control of heightened emotions and if you can’t, skip them.
  • Pre-competition edginess is contagious, stay away from your kids.
  • Pre-competition coaching/motivation is pointless so avoid it.
  • Pre-competition comments should include affection and affirmation.
  • Post-competition connections should be light-hearted – smile and offer a snack.
  • Post-competition stress/frustration should not be shared with your child.
  • Toughest task is to to NEVER, EVER talk abut results.  Encourage talk about effort and emphasize FUN in sports.

Not all of these things are easy to do, since research shows that about 70% of kids drop out of organized sports by early teens, it seems change is necessary.  “What matters in youth sports are not the results, but rather that young athletes have a passion for their sport, are willing to work hard and accept its inevitable highs and lows, and continue to develop physically, technically, and mentally in preparation for when it starts to matter in their late teens when college athletic scholarships and invitations to join national teams arise.”


For more details:  Sports Parents, We Have a Problem

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