A word to over-controlling sports parents

By Janis Meredith | Posted 5/4/2015

Maybe you are not an over-controlling sports parent, but I’m sure you know a few if your kids play youth sports.

If so, share this letter with those who struggle with over-controlling.


Dear over-controlling sports parent,

Maybe I should be addressing this letter to all sports parents, not just ones who constantly over-control, because I think everyone struggles with this issue at some point.

You want your kid to succeed. You love seeing your kid improve his skills. You want to feel a burst of pride every time your child gets called into the game to play.

I understand that your struggle to control is rooted in the fact that you love your child very much. I also know that your love can get mixed in with some selfish pride, perhaps a bit of the I-want-you-to-do-what-I-did attitude or even the I-want-you-to-do-what-I-couldn’t-do attitude. Or maybe your love is tainted with a determination to see your child be a starter, get his name in the paper and eventually play sports in college.

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For a minute, let’s strip away all those other things and just focus on your love for your child. In its purest form, you absolutely want the best for him. You want to see him happy. You want him to feel the thrill of success. You want him to grow up strong in character. I know you want the best for your child, and that is the motivation for what you do.

If love for your child is truly your motivation, then I have something important to say to you: Being an over-controlling sports parent is not doing what is best for your child.

Over-controlling means you always look for the experience that will make it easy for your kid: the winning coach, the team with best players or maybe the team with the worst players so your child has a better chance of starting and playing a lot. Perhaps you are eager to confront the coach instead of letting your child do it or letting your child fight his own battles.

Perhaps your control is a bit more subtle. You suggest to your child what he should do instead of having a conversation that helps him figure out what he should do. You get buddy-buddy with the coach or donate a lot of money to the program in hopes that your child will be treated better.

Over-controlling sports parents can’t just love their kids and leave it at that. They love their kids with puppet strings attached to them and to their youth sports experiences.

Imagine for a minute that you have been raising a small wild animal, such as a bear or lion cub. When it is little, you feed it with a bottle and coddle it. But when it starts to grow, you find that you have to control the environment or that animal will run into trouble in your house and in your neighborhood. You end up putting it in a cage, thinking that eventually you will let it loose in the wild. But keeping that animal caged will not prepare it for living in the wild. In fact, his adjustment to living freely will be much harder because he has been in such a controlled environment.

As parents, you are basically raising your children to live in the wild. And if you control every aspect of their environment as they grow up, they will have a tougher adjustment to live freely – because it is indeed a jungle out there. If your child has not learned strength when living in your home, he will have a harder time learning it when out on his own.

The honest truth is that when you insist on being an over-controlling sports parent, you are stunting your child’s character growth. And if you really love your child, I know that is not what you want to do.

For just a minute, forget about all that is wrong in youth sports and just focus on you, your child and your child’s team. If you can stop being an over-controlling sports parent, you can be a positive force right where you are.

Positivity is contagious, and if you start the trend, you could change the culture of a team, and eventually that team could change the culture of a league, then a community is changed.

And from there it spreads.

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