By Janis Meredith
Many of my mistakes as a sports mom were made out of ignorance. I honestly didn’t realize that I was making blunders that were hurting my relationship with my child and were nurturing her personal frustrations.
If you’ve been a sports parent for a few years, you’ve probably fallen into the same trap. You don’t intend to frustrate your children. You want the best for them, and that’s the reason behind what you do for them.
It’s hard for us to be objective as parents. Sometimes we need to let someone else point out the problem because our love blinds us from seeing it. I want to be that objective voice right now and help you pinpoint if you are unknowingly placing pressure on your young athletes that will add stress to your relationship and could drive your children away from a game they love.
Here are 3 ways parents place pressure on their athletes without realizing it:
You hover. Perhaps you watch your children’s middle or high school practice because you just want to see how they do. But your hovering could be making them feel pressure from you to perform. Perhaps you pace the sidelines at your child’s game because of your own nervousness, but your pacing sends a message to your child: Mom or Dad is watching me! I’d better do this right.
You can be present, interested and involved in your child’s youth sports without hovering. Try backing off a bit. Give your children some space. Let them practice without you watching every move or play without feeling pressure from you on the sidelines. I think you’ll be surprised how they’ll blossom on their own.
You push too much. Part of a sports parent’s job is to encourage and challenge their kids to be the best they can be, but that doesn’t have to be accomplished through excessive pushing. That kind of influence usually comes in the form of nagging. Why don’t you go outside and practice your shot? You really need to keep shooting. You won’t get any better if you don’t practice...blah, blah, blah.
It can also come in the form of coaching your children from the sidelines or bleachers on what to do in the game, or chewing them out after a game because of their mistakes, or forcing them to work, work, work. You need to go to this camp; it will make you better! I’m getting you a private coach so you can improve!
It’s one thing if your child is hungry and wants these things, but it’s quite another if it’s YOU doing all the pushing. If your children are not doing any of the pushing, you may want to ask them if they really want to play the game.
You take their sport too seriously. These are kids and this is youth sports. Parents tend to forget this very basic premise, and it shows when they get angry at coaches, refs and the opposing team. It shows when they get way too tense about their child’s playing time or playing position. In fact, I’ve seen parents get angry about things while the kids take it all in stride. If you’re constantly getting upset during the season, there’s a very good chance you’re taking your children’s sports way too seriously and simultaneously putting unfair pressure on them.
Do you see yourself in there anywhere? If you can be honest and admit where you might be putting undue pressure on your children, the next step is clear: stop what you’re doing, remember what youth sports is all about and let them find the joy of competing in youth sports all on their own.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.