What changes and what doesn’t when your child enters middle school sports

By Janis Meredith | Posted 3/20/2017

Is your child on the verge of entering middle school sports? You and your child will see that a lot changes and a lot doesn’t change. 

What will change

If you struggled with the whole pushy-parent thing in little league, it only gets worse in middle school. Parents can smell the possibility that their kids are going to be high school star athletes, and some of them push their kids even harder.

Travel ball pressures

Travel ball pressure begins as parents push their young athletes to excel. Kids may want to play travel ball just because they love the sport, but parents want their children to play for a whole different reason—they are already looking to high school. Seeing other kids improve as they play travel ball makes them worry that their children will be left behind.

The competition to make high school teams can be pretty stiff and it may very well be that letting your child play travel ball will help them gain that edge. It’s something to consider if you want your child to play in high school, although it doesn’t guarantee them high school stardom or even a spot on the team. I know kids who played several years of travel ball and still didn’t make the high school team.

Playing time struggles

Just because it’s middle school, not everyone plays equally. Most likely the sixth to seventh-grade teams will lean towards equal playing time, but every eighth-grade team my kids have been on has not. Many eighth-grade coaches do this to prepare their athletes for the next year in high school when the best usually play. If they don’t gently break kids into this, it will be a shock in high school.

Coach and athletic director Lisa Doering calls this a “weeding out” process. “Many middle schools prefer to focus on the ‘weeding out’ process to allow the coaches to concentrate on the superior athletes and risk the danger of making the others feel left out or be considered failures,” says Doering. “The argument for the ‘weeding out’ approach is that high school coaches want their incoming players to be well-skilled when they arrive, enabling the coaches to concentrate on fine-tuning the skills and developing a championship team.”

Whether or not you agree with this weeding out process, it is a reality your kids may face.

Your child’s work ethic may need to change 

No, it’s not as intense as high school, but it should be more intense than little league. They need to learn to work for something they really want and if playing time or success on the field or court is what they want, it’s time to start working for it.


What doesn’t change

Sports should still be fun

If sports are not fun for your kid, they will most likely start to suffer from sports burnout. Middle school sports must have a balance of work and fun.

There will still be drama

The favoritism and politics that you disliked about little league never goes away. It will follow you through middle school and on to high school. It’s an unfortunate side effect of sports. How you and your child deal with it can make or break his sports experiences. Your athlete always needs unconditional love and support no matter how they perform or if they choose to even play.


As our kids grow older, playing sports brings excitement and recognition. It may even help pay for college and open doors for the future. But throughout little league, middle school, high school, even college, nothing will ever be more important than the type of person your son or daughter becomes in the process.


Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her new book 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents is on Amazon.