Do you make any of these subtle sports parenting mistakes?

By Janis Meredith | Posted 4/18/2016

You may not be the ranting sports parent who paces the sidelines or the ballistic mom or dad who corners the coach after a game, but some subtle sports parenting mistakes can be just as damaging or deflating to a young athlete.

Ask yourself some hard questions. Are you guilty of any of these missteps?

Do you emphasize performance over effort? Your child is not in college or the pros. His stats and his performance should not be your main focus. Your child is learning hard work, discipline, teamwork and goal achievement. Absolutely celebrate the good games, but don’t let those be the only victories you acknowledge.

Does your child feel pressured to play? This can be an unspoken pressure. Maybe dad or mom played the sport, and the child feels he must follow suit. Or maybe dad is a football coach and the son feels obligated to play. The best way to be sure you are not making this mistake is to simply check your own motivation and then communicate to your child. Letting him know that he does not have to play the sport just because you played it or because you coach it encourages him to do what he enjoys.

SEE ALSO: 7 steps to teaching your athlete self-control

SEE ALSO: Our football story: A mother’s gratitude to the coaches that stuck by her son

Do you stir up discontent? I have been guilty of this misstep. It usually looked like this: My child didn’t get the playing time, position or recognition that I felt was deserved, so I’d ask questions or make comments that fed my child’s discontent. In some cases, my child was not bothered by the situation and my remarks planted the seeds of doubt and discontent; in other cases, my comments simply watered what was already starting to grow. Comments such as: Why didn’t your coach put you in the game in the second half, or I can’t believe your coach treats you like that. Stir up discontent in our children and do not help them play better or resolve their frustrations.

Do you take youth sports way too seriously? I guess another way of saying this would be to ask, quite bluntly: Do you have a life outside of youth sports? Having a passion is one thing. Having an obsession is another. Youth sports is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end, that end being that your kids grow up to be strong, responsible and compassionate adults. If you are infatuated with youth sports to the extent that you talk about little else with your kid, you constantly coach your child to improve his skills, or you get way too upset about your child’s challenges, then my friend, it is time for you to get a life.

You may not be yelling at the coach from the bleachers or chewing your child out from the sidelines, but I’ve been around youth sports long enough to know that even the most well-behaved parents–in public that is–can make mistakes that hurt their kids. If you see yourself in any of the above subtleties, it’s not too late to change course.

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 a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.