Having two competitors in the family facing off on opposite sides of the field or court can be rather difficult on youth sports parents.
Just ask Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, parents of Jim and John, who compete this Sunday for a world championship in the Super Bowl, a.k.a. “Harbowl”. It’s been big news, entertaining, mind-boggling really–I guess you could say historic–to think that two brothers would end head coaching against each other in the Super Bowl.
I really have no advice for Jackie Harbaugh; she’s way out of my league! But I do have some thoughts for sports parents whose kids compete against each other on the field. I’ve seen it happen quite often in youth sports. Kids go to different schools, play for different traveling teams. It’s a situation that cannot be easy for Mom and Dad, but remembering these suggestions might help keep the competition healthy.
Rivalries can be positive. It will be nearly impossible to squash the rivalry and quite honestly, you should’t want to. Rivalries push athletes to be better and teaches them to handle conflict.
Success should not be over-emphasized. Although your athlete’s accomplishments are important, putting too much emphasis on them can hurt a sibling. Congratulate the winning child and his hard work. Then praise the hard work of the child who did not perform as well. The focus should be on effort, not success.
No favorites. Sometimes parents support one child over another without realizing it. It’s a good idea for sports parents to balance their involvement in their kids’ sports.
No comparisons. I imagine Jack and Jackie Harbaugh were tempted to compare their sons as they grew up, only one year apart. Comparisons are dangerous; they affect a child’s self-esteem. When a parent talks more about a child’s successes or uses comparisons as a means to motivate another child, it can lead to resentment between siblings.
Competition doesn’t come home. Don’t let game competition come home with you. Athletes need a place to cool off, a safe haven from feeling beaten down. I’m not saying you should ignore it; it’s okay to talk about it, just don’t let the discussion escalate into a fight where one child’s self-esteem is battered because he lost in the competition.
It will be most interesting to observe Jackie and Jack Harbaugh this weekend as they watch their sons compete. I imagine they will be cheering for every play!
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