How to Raise an Unselfish Athlete

By Janis Meredith | Posted 12/25/2019

In the world of professional and college sports, we see many examples of athletes who act selfishly, and some of them happen to be your child’s role models. Therefore, it should come as no surprise when you see athletes behave in a self-serving way.  Sports performance expert, Dr. Goldberg, explains what’s behind this attitude:

The selfishness that underlies this “me first” mentality is fueled by fear and insecurity. The fear and insecurity are based on the self-limiting and mistaken belief that the pie” of success is limited in size, and that if someone else gets a big piece, then that means your piece will be that much smaller. This insecurity and fear-driven mentality will lead you to be jealous of those teammates who get more playing time and/or recognition than you. It will fuel your anger at opponents who beat you. If left unchecked, these darker, but quite normal feelings will lead you to say and do really stupid, embarrassing things that will ultimately, assuming you have your head on straight, leave you feeling disgusted with yourself.

How can you, as parents, fight the tide of selfish athleticism?

Fighting selfishness begins in the home and far away from the field or court. You cannot expect your kids to be selfless in sports if they are learning it from you. Here are some things to think about as you teach your kids how not to be selfish.

Give them what they need, not always what they want.

Do your children know the difference between their needs and their wants? They will if, as a rule, you commit to giving them what they need and let them earn what they want. There are special occasions to break that rule but use that option sparingly if you want to raise kids that are not always expecting things from you.

Overindulgence leads to selfish kids, which translates to selfish athletes.

Parent to make your kids strong and capable, not “happy.”

Dr. Connie Johnson, co-author of How Much is Enough says:  When parents give children too much stuff that costs money, do things for children that they can do for themselves, do not expect children to do chores, do not have good rules and let children run the family, parents are over-indulging.

 Don’t be quick to solve their problems for them.

Parents often get in the way of their kids learning patience and selflessness. We are quick to jump in and try to solve our kids’ problems for them. Struggling can often be good for your kids. When they learn to work through their own problems and don’t expect others to solve issues for them, they will grow patience and that will nurture selflessness.

Show them what selflessness looks like.

It should come as no surprise to my readers that in just about every post when I am talking to parents about helping kids learn a certain behavior, that I always bring it back to the parents and the example they set. Simply put: if you are modeling selfish behavior, don’t be surprised to see it in your kids.

True Champions and Selflessness

The true champion is not defined by their stats, their awards, or their appearance in the local newspaper.

The true champion is selfless. He/she naturally put himself last. This individual manifests an “unconditional willingness to put the team or group before any of his/her individual or self needs.” In sum, the true champion serves others. (Dr. Goldberg)

Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at