In Burn Out, Out of Control Emotions/Jealousy and Anger, Parents' Role in Youth Sports, Problems in Youth Sports

Let me start out by stating the obvious: Regardless of the level that your kids compete at, from the recreational to the super-serious, the main purpose of YOUR ROLE in your child’s sport is to help them learn valuable life lessons, lessons that will ultimately help them develop into happy, highly functioning, GOOD human being as they move through childhood and adolescence into adulthood. Competitive sports, when in the hands of appropriate adults, are a wonderful classroom to teach these life lessons! The main purpose of YOUR ROLE in your child’s sport should NEVER to be to insure that they start, score more goals than their teammates, beat Jonny or Susie or make the ALL-Star team!

If you think that winning and being the BEST is the primary goal here, then you are sadly mistaken and inadvertently guiding your kids down the wrong track. It’s perfectly fine for your kids to have their OWN GOALS to make th ALL STAR team, start, earn a college scholarship or go pro. Childhood drems are absolutely invaluable in motivating kids to feel passion and excel! However, from YOUR PERSPECTIVE and ROLE, you should not be pushing your kids to earn college scholarship or to make it to the Pros. The realistic chances of these two outcomes happening are VERY SLIM to EVEN SLIMMER! When an athlete does earn that elusive scholarship or signs that lucrative pro contract, it’s NOT because the athlete and their parents obsessively focused on it 24/7/365! Any athlete who achieves that high level of performance does so because they and their parents have developed a very healthy relationship with the sport and each other! ATHLETIC SUCCESS always comes naturally from our kids loving their sport and the quest and learning the RIGHT lessons on the field!

Your key role here when it comes to your child’s sport is to SUPPORT their goals, NOT DRIVE them. And, this means that the way that you go about supporting them in their quest is CRITICAL!!! The MEANS in this regard is far more important than the ENDS!

I’m sure you’ve heard of or know of parents who have mercilessly driven their child-athlete to achieve success. There are even stories written about the parents of some professional athletes who have pushed their naturally athletic kids to this high level. What you may not know is that I have seen many of those kids in my practice. Some of them burn out prematurely in distress, while others carry with them deep and everlasting emotional scars from being pushed by their parents’ own agendas, scars that are woven through every aspect of their lives.

And your job as the parent and mature adult here is to teach your children-athletes the RIGHT life lessons! This is what it really means to keep the sport in perspective! To understand that there are far more significant things at stake here than winning, playing time or who scores what! Lessons like hard work and sacrifice; the pursuit of excellence; learning the value of failure and mistakes; good sportsmanship; honesty; integrity; respect for yourself, teammates and opponents; fair play; teamwork and the need to sacrifice “me” for “we;” handling success and failure with dignity; and the list goes on and on!

How do we teach our kids these critical life lessons? Mainly by WHO we are and HOW we act! Simply put, your most powerful teaching and parenting tool is MODELING!Your kids always learn far more from WHO you are and HOW you behave than from what you say!

If that’s the case, then please tell me exactly what you’re teaching your 12 year old son whenever you stand on the sidelines and loudly criticize the other players on his team whenever they make mistakes? And then when you follow this up with a, “Take the ball from him (his own teammate) son! Go get the job done yourself!” are you helping your young boy better understand that soccer is actually a team sport? Are you helping him learn to respect his mates?

When your daughter’s teammate, Jenny, (who also happens to usually outplay your girl), scores, what are you teaching your kid when you loudly grunt and show your visible displeasure at this turn of events? And when Jenny or others continue to score and make good plays and you make it a point to not cheer for them, what’s the lesson there? Should your daughter feel slighted the way that you feel every time that Jenny scores? Should she learn that one should always be jealous and resentful of those who have success or are at a higher skill level, even if they are teammates? Whatever happened to the concept that the better your teammates and the better the competition, the greater chance that you have of excelling and growing as both an athlete and a person?

And are you blinded by your jealousy not to realize that Jenny is one of the nicest kids on the team, an on field leader and someone who always lifts her teammates up rather than knock them down!

And what do you teach your daughter or son when you can be heard complaining along with a few of the other jealousy-driven parents, “Why did they put HIM/HER in?” when the coach makes a particular substitution?

You have a very important role to play on your child’s sports “team.” How well you play this role will dramatically and directly affect your son or daughter’s happiness, self-esteem, learning and pursuit of excellence both on and off the field! Keep the games in perspective. Support and encourage your child and everyone on their team. Love your child unconditionally, unfettered by how well they play or how many mistakes they might make. Make sure that your child knows that your love and respect for them is NOT dependent upon the outcome of the game or their level of play!


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