12 Sports Parenting Mistakes To Avoid With Your Young Athlete

parenting Sep 07, 2023
Sports Parenting Mistakes To Avoid

Sports are a huge part of being a kid. It’s not just about the thrill of the game — it’s about character building, camaraderie, and learning to navigate life’s highs and lows.

As a dad, you play an essential role as a supportive and encouraging figure in your young athlete’s sports journey. You’re basically their trainer, cheerleader, and motivator all rolled up into one.

However, even the most well-intentioned sports parents can sometimes fumble. However, certain missteps can turn what should’ve been a fun experience into a stressful one.

In this blog, we’ll tackle the twelve common sports parenting mistakes you’ll want to dodge to keep your young athlete’s journey enjoyable, enriching, and age-appropriate. Huddle up and listen close!

1. Living Vicariously Through Your Kid

We all have dreams — maybe you had your sights set on the NFL or the NBA, but life had other plans. It happens.

However, pushing your athletic ambitions onto your little one isn’t the way to go. It whittles down their enjoyment of the sport and adds unnecessary pressure. Let them find their own path and passion in the sports world. Remember, it’s their game, not yours.

Ask yourself: “Is my child living their dreams or mine?”

2. Pushing Too Hard

Being a dad is all about providing encouragement and support, but pushing your young athlete too hard is a surefire path to burnout, stress, and resentment.

You’re not just risking their love for the sport, but also straining your own relationship with them. Ease up, champ — remember, it’s just a game!

3. Comparing Your Kid to Others

It’s never a good idea to constantly stack your kid against others. They’re already doing plenty of that on their own, thanks to the competitive world of sports.

When parenting kids in sports, your job is to do the opposite! You should be their safe place, reminding them of their unique strengths and cheering them on, rather than putting them down. Plus, kids grow at different paces, even if they are of the same age.

4. Using Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is when we focus on the negatives — the mistakes, the slip-ups. Does that sound constructive to you? It’s actually very unhealthy!

Negative reinforcement chips away at your kiddos’ confidence and their enjoyment of the sport. Remember, you’re supposed to be their biggest fan, not their harshest critics. Let’s swap the negatives for encouragement, instead!

5. Displaying Poor Sportsmanship

Nothing does more harm to your kid’s game than poor sportsmanship. Whether it’s you losing your cool in the stands, or them throwing a tantrum on the field, it sets a bad example.

Arguing with other parents, shouting at umpires or coaches, or any other display of poor sportsmanship is prohibited. It’s not cool or fun, and it definitely doesn’t teach the right values.

6. Overloading With Activities

Do you enjoy being overloaded with work and all your other responsibilities? No, right? So, why would your child like being overloaded with extracurriculars?

Over-scheduling and pushing them to participate in numerous sports activities can lead to physical fatigue and injuries. More importantly, the joy of the sport gets lost in the shuffle.

Kids could start viewing sports as a task or a burden they have to bear, rather than an enjoyable activity. Remember, they’re just kids! Let them breathe and have some downtime, and most importantly, let them have fun!

7. Ignoring Fun and Enjoyment

Speaking of fun, that is exactly what youth sports is supposed to be about. It should go without saying that it’s essential for kids to enjoy the sport they are playing.

If they aren’t having fun, there’s no point in forcing them to stay committed. Sports should be a positive experience for them!

8. Ignoring the Coach’s Authority

Undermining the coach’s authority is a huge no-no. It can confuse your kids and set a bad example. Most importantly, it disrespects the coach’s efforts.

Remember, coaches are trained authorities who understand the game and the needs of young athletes better than we possibly can. If you find yourself constantly questioning the decisions of the coach, why not sign up as a coach yourself?

9. Overemphasizing Winning

It’s natural to want to win, but it shouldn’t be the only goal. Overly fixating on results can take away from the joy of playing in general. There are so many other aspects and skills that kids should focus on such as teamwork, discipline, and sportsmanship.

Experiencing loss can also be a powerful teaching tool when you’re parenting kids in sports! It instills in them the understanding that success isn’t just about winning, but about growth and self-improvement.

10. Micromanaging Your Kids’ Performance

This one is a tricky one. We want our kids to do well, of course — but sometimes we can be too involved in their performance. This is common — especially with sports parents who are living vicariously through their kids.

Micromanaging could potentially make your child too dependent on you, hindering their ability to think independently. Instead, let your kids take ownership of their game and decisions.

11. Having Lack of Balance

Focusing solely on sports is like eating only one type of food; there’s so much you’ll be missing out on. Striking a balance is key in parenting young athletes, and neglecting other parts of your child’s life can have serious consequences.

Imagine if your kid only trained and never did any school work. They might have a fantastic fastball, but algebra (and graduation) might be in danger.

Lastly, not having balance can create an unhealthy mindset for your child. Sports would become everything, and failure in it can lead to feelings of unworthiness, which is detrimental to your child’s mental health.

12. Having Unrealistic Expectations

Setting unrealistic expectations for your young athlete can backfire big time. It can affect their love for the sport as well as their confidence and willingness to play.

It’s important to set age- and skill-appropriate goals that foster growth, improve abilities, and maintain their motivation. To set these, ask your child what their goals are, discuss whether they’re achievable, and make a game plan to help them achieve.

The Winning Game Plan for Successful Sports Parenting

Youth sports parenting is not about producing top athletes — it’s about raising well-rounded, confident, and healthy individuals. More importantly, for your kids, it’s usually just about having fun and spending time with their friends. So, support them, let them enjoy the sport, and be the proud parent cheering them on in every game.

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