5 indicators of a sports parent screwup

By Janis Meredith | Posted 12/15/2014

Crazy sports parents are not just the ones ranting on the sidelines, attacking the coach after the game, or 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, who may not even 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 are five 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 or the position he 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 he 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 the team.

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

You are pushing your athlete too hard.

There’s a difference between being pushy and being supportive. Pushy parents are always fighting their children’s battles for them when it comes to playing time or getting along with the coach. They are constantly prodding their children to improve rather than encouraging their kids and reminding them of the improvements they have already made. Young athletes need to learn to push themselves.

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 your child for mistakes made in competition.

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 field. That 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 parents to face the truth when it comes to their child’s shortcomings. But only when parents are honest can we help our young athletes 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 21 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 needn’t be stuck there.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.