5 indicators of a sports parent screwup: it’s not just the crazy ones

These parents may not be ranting on the sidelines, but they might still be messing up their kids’ sports experience.

Crazy sports parents are not just the ones ranting on the sidelines. They are not just the ones attacking the coach after the game.  Or the ones threatening bodily harm to a referee.

No, sports parents who are screwing up the opportunity to really help their kids have a positive, growing sports experience can be much more subtle. In fact, sometimes they are so subtle that no one–except for the child and even he may not really understand–ever figures out that they are screwing up.

Here’s a brutally honest question to ask yourself. Are you a sports parent screwup? Are you missing a fantastic opportunity to help your kid grow and learn and prepare for adulthood? Are you twisting your child’s youth sports experience into something that doesn’t even remotely resemble healthy fun and competition?

Here’s 5 indicators that you are doing just that:

You are more concerned about what people think than your child’s experience.

If your child isn’t getting the playing time, the attention, the position she wants, do you get more bent out of shape than your kid does? Sometimes I think parents are so taken up with being the parent of the all-star athlete, that when their child doesn’t receive “what she deserves,” they take it as a personal affront.

Or maybe you are the parent of the kid who sits the bench and you can’t tolerate being the parent of a kid who sits the bench. Why? Do you think it makes you look bad?

Sometimes parents are so worried about their image that they forget that youth sports is about the kids, not the parents. Ditch your ego when it comes to youth sports.

You blame everyone else for your child’s frustration.

The coach. The team. That ball hog on her team.

They may all be contributing factors to a tough situation, but it is not going to help your child one bit if you join in on the blame game with her. What does that teach her?  That it’s always someone else’s fault. That is not a mentality that will help her learn to deal with frustrations and problems as she grows up.

You are pushing your athlete too hard.

There’s a difference between being pushy and being supportive. Pushy is always prodding your kid to improve, instead of encouraging her on how’s she already improved and letting her learn to push herself. Pushy is fighting his battles for him when it comes to playing time or getting along with coach.

Pushy parents often suck the fun right out of youth sports.

You don’t show up.

Either you never make it to games, or you refuse to help out the team in any way–these are physical ways of not showing up. But there are also emotional ways of not showing up. Like not taking the time to listen. Or being mad at them for mistakes they make in competition (yes, I’ve known parents who do this).

Showing up emotionally means you know when to speak and when to be silent. It means you seek to understand more than you seek to be understood.

You have tunnel vision when it comes to your child.

You think your child is a phenomenal athlete, when honestly he is average.

You think your child can do no wrong on the court–his pass was perfect; it was the other kid who messed up because he couldn’t catch it.

Your child is never the one whose attitude is hurting the team. My baby wouldn’t do that!

It’s so hard for a parent to face the truth when it comes to his child’s shortcomings. But only when a parent is honest can he help his young athlete learn, grow and improve. There’s a fine line between believing in your child and wearing blinders.

Do any of these indicators hit uncomfortably close to home?

I’ve been a sports mom for 20 years and I will admit: I have been guilty of all five of these sports parenting screw-ups at one time or another.

When you screw up, put it behind you and start over. You need’t be stuck there.


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