Public Service Announcement: SPORTS ARE FUN!
At least, they’re supposed to be. But often times, for many children and adolescents, parents can get in the way.
A parent can become so enthralled in their child’s pursuit of success that they can unintentionally take the fun out of it for the child, and may even drive them away from the sport altogether.
We’ve all seen it: The parent that constantly yells at their child from the stands and rarely, if ever, cracks a smile or participates in applauses. The parent that fills their child’s schedule with workout after workout and scoffs when they occasionally request to do anything unrelated to the sport. The parent that seems to be more dedicated to the activity than the children themselves. THAT parent.
Take a few minutes to watch this hilarious parody of parents who are forced to confront their own addictions to their children’s athletic careers.
– Sport Nova Scotia (Youtube)
As the video satirically addresses, several factors can cause a parent to become overly consumed in their child’s sport participation:
- The pursuit of a scholarship or other financial benefits
- A desire for complete control
- Forcing early specialization into one sport
- Making comparisons to other children
- Living vicariously through the child
The long-term consequences can include:
- Physical and mental burnout
- Damage to the child’s physical, mental or emotional development
- Cessation of participation
- Limited opportunities to participate in other potentially beneficial/enjoyable activities (i.e. other sports, hobbies, extracurriculars, social events)
- Unhealthy coping mechanisms (i.e. drug and alcohol abuse, including performance enhancing drugs)
- Damaged relationships with friends, teammates and family members (including the parent)
Let me make this clear: This article is not an attempt to criticize parents for being enthusiastic and passionate about the interests of their children. This is simply a reminder to all parents to step back and honestly assess your motives. Take the time to view your approach from your child’s point of view and assure that you are portraying behavior that sends them the right message.
Is your desire for success intended more for their satisfaction or for your own? Is the dynamic of your relationship dependent on their latest performance and therefore, conditional? Might you be too hard on them at times? Are they still having fun? These are important questions to consider.
Recent studies have shown that 80% of children quit sports after age 13. (Burton, 2016) Although there are certainly other factors that may affect a child’s decision to stop playing sports, the development of an unhealthy parent-child relationship is definitely a major one. Unfortunately, this issue has become quite prevalent in youth sports and we’ve begun to see the damaging results too often. Just ask the young athletes featured in Chris Bell’s documentary, Trophy Kids.
We all want to see our loved ones excel, but when we allow our expectations to become too result-oriented, we can forget the true reasons why we play sports: FUN, socialization, and personal growth. Losing focus of what’s important can lead to the detriment of everyone involved. So do yourself and your child a favor, and don’t be THAT parent.
- Burton, T.J. (2016). Be Grateful and Thankful Everyday.. [Slide 9]. Retrieved from Chapters 1 & 2, Coaching Philosophy and Communication Lecture.