4 ways your athlete knows you are in their corner

By Janis Meredith | Posted 9/27/2017

Does your athlete really know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are in their corner?

Muhammad Ali was one of boxing’s greatest. His name is known worldwide. But you’ve probably never heard of Angelo Dundee. Angelo was Ali’s cornerman for over two decades. He was the guy who supported and trained Ali from the corner of the rink, thus the title “cornerman.”

According to the dictionary, a cornerman is a combat sports term for a coach or teammate assisting a fighter during the length of a bout . The cornerman remains outside the combat area during the fight, but in proximity, and can assist the fighter through instruction.

How are your cornerman skills? Does your child believe that you are in her corner?  Author Mark Batterson  (in his book IF) says that he often texts his kids “in your corner” as a reminder that he’s with them and he’s for them, no matter what.

Does your child know that? Here are some very specific ways that you can act as your child’s cornerman:

Stay Out of the Fight

In the definition of cornerman, it says that he remains outside the combat area. Sports parents struggle to do that; they often cross over the line from parent to coach and thus enter the “combat zone.” They coach from the sidelines during the game and fight their child’s playing time battles.  It’s easy for them to forget that their child is playing YOUTH sports.

Stay Close By

The cornerman definition also states that he remains close by in proximity. However, close proximity doesn’t mean pacing the sidelines or sitting through every practice. For sports parents, proximity means they are at as many games as possible, they show interest and support, and their kids know that mom and dad are their biggest advocate.

Protects Athlete

Cornermen are very protective of their fighters and they want to keep them from harm whenever possible. In fact, cornermen can throw in the towel and end the bout if their fighter’s taking excessive punishment and doesn’t appear to have a chance to win. Cornermen feel that its better to sacrifice a match than jeopardize a boxer’s future.

It is also the parent’s job to protect their children, but protect doesn’t mean you enter the boxing ring and fight for them. It means you are standing close by, watching, and if your child’s physical or emotional safety is at risk, you know that it’s time to step in.

This in-your-corner responsibility is often confusing to sports parents. They either step in when they shouldn’t, or they stand back and let too much go down before speaking up. I’d like to clear up that fuzziness by saying that protecting your child from physical and emotional harm does not mean you should always try to make life easy for them. If something is truly damaging to your child, physically or emotionally, such as bullying, then by all means protect! But shielding your child from every challenge or difficulty is not the kind of protection that will make him strong; it will, in fact, make him weak.

Provides for Athlete

A true cornerman also trains and coaches the boxer, so here is where the correlation between cornerman and sports parent doesn’t fit because it’s better if you are not the one doing the training and the coaching. I know there are many examples of parents who play that role, but for every good example, there are many more not-so-good stories of helicopter parents who insist on being in total control of their child’s training.

However, it is your job to see that your child gets what they need – the coaching, the training, the opportunities, the equipment, or whatever else they might need. If you don’t insist on teaching your child how to read, write, do math, play the piano, or paint, then you don’t have to do it all in the sports arena, either. Delegate the job to others who are more qualified.

You are also the one who needs to see that your child is getting proper nutrition and hydration. Start teaching them this when they are little, and by the time they are in middle-high school, they will hopefully understand how to take care of themselves.

Being in your child’s corner is the best way to support your athlete. Have you figured out how to strike the balance between hovering and total detachment? Trying being your child’s cornerman and I think you’ll find that balance.


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. Learn more about good sports parenting habits in her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents, available on Amazon.