In Parents' Role in Youth Sports, Problems in Youth Sports

The following is from an email inquiry. Because I was unable to get my return response to go through, I decided to post the question and my answer here. I have tried to respect confidentiality here but made the assumption that an answer here was better than no answer at all:

My husband keeps humiliating my son when he plays sports during the actual games even though he may be the player making the most baskets, basically the star player. He will yell out stuff like “you might as well stay in the corner if you can’t do better.” Or should I speak in another language so you will understand? It is totally distressing me and I think it is wrong. My husband loves him and has good intentions but doens’t get that he should give him advice at home, after or before the game in a constructive way. Or just let the coach handle it. It also embarrasses me, and sometimes he also gets angry at the other coaches (for something they are definitely wrong about) but he makes a scene and it is embarrasing. Are there any sites that can help me that I can show him what he is doing or can you help?


For your husband’s information, and you can tell him I said so, what he is doing now, if he keeps it up, will insure that his son develops performance problems, burns out on the sport and worse, will seriously strain the relationship that the two of them currently have. Although from what you’re reporting, it is already in a lot of trouble. I don’t doubt that deep down in his heart he wants to help his boy. Most parents who “coach” in this way actually mean well. However, this kind of “coaching” whether it’s done before, during or after games, at the court or at home, will NOT help him. It will alienate his son and leave the boy feeling terrible about himself.

Dad needs to know that he is not making his son stronger or mentally tougher by this behavior. It’s a myth that if you treat kids in this way, they will respond by getting tougher. Instead, dad is breaking his son down, undermining his self-confidence and tearing him apart emotionally. What your boy wants more than anything else from his father is for dad to love him unconditionally and feel proud of him. What your boy is experiencing instead, is that his dad doesn’t think he’s (your son) good enough and that dad’s love is only conditional to playing good basketball.

This is a very serious situation and if your husband does not change his behavior, he will ultimately drive his son away from him. Furthermore, his father is embarrassing both his boy and himself in front of everyone else. This kind of behavior will NEVER result in the boy playing better basketball. NEVER! It will always result in the exact opposite.

You should also take your husband to my site, and go to two places: The newsletter archives which has all the mental toughness newsletters I’ve done over the past 8 years by topic. Each newsletter has a parent section as well as a coach’s and athlete’s section. You should also go to my mental toughness blog and look at the related topics. I have written a lot about this topic. Hope this is helpful.

Alan Goldberg


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