In Parents' Role in Youth Sports

I overheard a conversation the other day that, unfortunately, I’ve heard far too many times. The story always seems to be the same. It’s a weekend golf, basketball or baseball tournament, a swim meet or some other competition that the parents have to invest a lot of their time, money and energy into. The family packs up for the trip, spends at least one overnight in a hotel and has to pay a ton of money to feed everyone. For some parents, under these circumstances, it’s hard for them to not feel that they are entitled to a little “return” on their investment in relation to their son or daughter performing well.

At this one particular swim meet, a mother was heard loudly complaining after yet another one of her daughter’s disappointing (to the mother) races to whoever would listen in the stands, “You’d think she’d at least win one race. I’ve spent too much money on her this weekend for her to swim like crap. What a waste!” Then there’s the pre-competition “help” from mom or dad reminding their child-athlete just how much money that they’ve invested and what might happen to their continued investment should the child falter today.

Let’s all remember one important thing about youth sports: It’s all for the child and it’s all supposed to be for fun. It is not supposed to be a business investment where the parents invest time, energy and money and the child-athlete must pay dividends in returning with a certain quality performance. This is not how it’s supposed to work and it will never work this way. If your child gets wind that you expect them to perform well because you have done all of these things for them, then you are setting your child up for failure while simultaneously burdening them with tremendous guilt. This will not relax your child-athlete going into the performance nor inspire him/her to great performance heights. Instead it will make them overly anxious, distract them from the task at hand and insure that they fall flat on their face, performance-wise.

Loving parents invest in their children’s sports because they are loving parents! They do it totally for the child. They keep their own interests and needs away from the child’s sport. They separate their own expectations from the child’s. Loving parents want their child to feel good about him/herself and be happy period! They recognize that the sport is a wonderful vehicle for helping their child accomplish both. Please, do not use guilt to try to motivate your child-athlete to perform better. It doesn’t work, it will never work and it will seriously harm your child and damage your relationship with him/her.


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