5 ways to help your athlete achieve independence

By Janis Meredith | Posted 7/3/2017

Parents agree that the goal of their job is to raise kids to become independent, responsible and caring adults. As sports parents, you've been given a particularly great opportunity to use youth sports to nurture independence in your kids.

Unfortunately, many sports parents are not taking advantage of this opportunity and have instead allowed youth sports to stunt their child’s growth towards independence.

If you want to make the most of this season in your child’s youth sports journey, here’s a few ways to help your child grow in independence:

Let them learn to fight their own battles.

When it comes to playing time, position, or even just learning to understand their coach, let your child figure it out. Be there to listen if they need to vent. Ask questions that will help them find solutions to their problems, but don’t jump in and fight the battle for them. That will grow their dependence, not his independence.

Let them take care of their equipment.

Teach them how to wash their uniform, clean cleats, air out their bag, and keep it all stored in a safe place. Let them be responsible for remembering to bring everything they need for the game.

Let them learn to push themselves.

If your child wants to earn a certain spot on the team, let them know that if they want it, they have to work for it. You are there to help if he/she asks, but the motivation has got to come from within. Otherwise, he/she will always be looking to someone else to push them forward.


Let them choose.

Does he/she really want to play the sport? Does he/she want to play on this team? Would he/she rather be doing something other than sports? Whatever choice he/she  makes, let them know it’s okay and that they must live with the consequences of that choice.


Let them dream.

Those dreams will motivate them and shape their future. Those dreams may shift as he/she grows older, but they will drive them to do what he/she loves. Listen to their dreams and let him know that you support them. You may worry that they are unrealistic, but don’t be the wet-blanket. Life may re-shape those dreams as he/she matures, but they will understand and adjust.

Don’t be the sports parent that says you want your child to learn independence, yet continues to sabotage that desire with behavior that holds your child back.

Janis B. Meredith is a sportsparenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.