Three Enemies of Great Sports Parenting

By Janis Meredith | Posted 6/1/2021

Sometimes it feels like the odds are stacked against sports. Raising an athlete to be a positive leader when there is so much negativity, so many reasons to fear for their safety, and so much pressure to perform is a very real challenge. 

However, I fear that the real enemies of great sports parenting are often more subtle than the more obvious obstacles and fears parents face. And because of that, they can be ignored or not recognized. Those subtle enemies can be much more dangerous simply because they are more likely to slip in undetected. So, sports parents, beware! Don’t let these enemies sneak in and derail your parenting.

Enemy #1: The Need for Control

If you are living under the illusion that you have full control over your children’s lives, you are sorely mistaken. Yes, there are certain things that are within your control as parents–like what school you send your child to or what foods you let them eat at home–but there is much more that you cannot control. And this is especially true in youth sports.

That scares many parents. Giving up control ties into some of our deepest fears. So we hold on tightly and try to control things that we have no power over, and in the process, we stress ourselves out and drive our kids crazy. The balance that parents must keep if they are to maintain their sanity and a healthy relationship with their kids is knowing what they can and should control and understanding what they cannot.

Parents who try to control every aspect of their child’s youth sports experience and shield them from every hardship are raising entitled and sheltered children who will not know how to be responsible adults. On top of that, they are adding stress to their own lives, which affects their own emotional and physical health.

Enemy #2: The Craving for Perfection

Kids make mistakes and are unpredictable, and this is what drives perfectionist sports parents to the brink of crazy. They didn’t practice hard enough or fold their uniform to your standards or do their chores as good as you’d like.  

The need for perfection drives parents to push, to be uptight, to neglect the little victories, and to make their kids frustrated. Children are left wondering if they will ever measure up to their parents’ expectations.

Enemy #3: The Habit of Comparing

Do you compare your young athletes to their teammates or competitors or even siblings? 

Comparing is unhealthy and steals joy from your lives. The only way to break the habit is to start focusing on the positive, on what you are grateful for and on what you CAN do, instead of what’s negative, what you wish you had, and on what you cannot change.

When you find yourself starting to compare; stop and force yourself to think of things you are grateful for. I’m not saying that will be an easy mindset shift, but as adults, we have the power to change the way we think. You can turn your mind in other directions if you are truly willing to make the change.

Make Sure Your Worst Enemy is Not Living Between Your Own Two Ears.

The enemies of control, perfectionism and comparison are sneaky; they pose as “common sense” and infiltrate your thinking, your behavior, and your relationships, causing hurt, havoc and pain.

If you want to defeat those enemies, you must confront them and go on an offensive attack of changing your thinking habits and becoming intentional about learning how to fight back. You cannot defeat these enemies by wishing them away; you must arm yourselves for the battle to win the war.

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