It’s a beautiful Saturday morning in April. The temperature is perfect and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Birds are chirping, and you can smell the fresh-cut grass. Spring is in the air, and all across America, fields will be hosting baseball, softball, lacrosse, and soccer games. Club volleyball and basketball is in full swing as well. This is what it’s all about. It’s what we love about sports and our country; competition. But sadly these experiences will not be positive for all kids involved. Why? The parents. This week we’ll tackle THE biggest problem in youth sports.

Parents, who do you cheer for? What do you cheer for? Do you cheer for the scoreboard? Does your child’s team winning a youth game make your weekend? These are all serious questions which need to be addressed.

As a parent you should cheer for your child’s name; not your last name. Cheer for the first name. Cheer for Mikey, Maddie, Sammie, Keeley, Brenner, and Layton. How fast your child runs, how far they hit a ball, or how well they can throw it does not reflect the quality of person you or they are. Sports are awesome and teach so many valuable life lessons, but they also can breed insecurity.

Parental insecurity is the number one problem in youth sports. Somehow parents fear the results and reactions of how their children perform, and what the scoreboard says after the final whistle. This insecurity causes the extreme, disrespectful, and inappropriate parental behavior we read about in the headlines. The behavior is a result of the parents not wanting their child’s performance to reflect badly on their last name. It’s more about them than it is the child. It’s about ego. The parent doesn’t want to feel embarrassment or not equal due to their child’s performance.

Too often parents will live vicariously through their children. This is especially true for men; it’s hard for us to let go of the glory days. It’s the alpha male coming out. We want our kid to be the best, but in reality we want our last name to be the best. There is a sense validation parents seek from sports. We don’t want to be inferior. So Johnny or Suzy better hit that shot, or else I’m embarrassed. This couldn’t be more wrong and it begins to manifest the terrible adult behavior.

Parents get an ego boost if their kid is on a traveling club team beginning as early as the age of 7. So what? Anyone can be on a club team that travels, the only thing it requires is money. It becomes too much of an ego boost for the parents, and it’s not about the kids. It’s about parents feeling like they are part of an exclusive club. It brings a certain level of prestige. Our identity as parents should not come from the success our children do or don’t have in sports. It should come from what type of people they are.

Parents should be proud when their kids performs well. However, they should be equally as proud if their kid goes 0-4 and makes two errors. The only thing that should matter are the following items:

     Did they have fun?

     Did they try hard?

     Did listen to their coach?

     Were they a good teammate?

That’s it.

It doesn’t matter if your child is the star of the team, plays for an “elite” club team, or on a local rec team. What matters is if they are coachable, and a good teammate. That determines whether you’re a good parent.

The majority of the problems associated with youth sports would go away if we just remembered to cheer for the child. Cheer for the first name; not the last. Parents, we had our time. This is your child’s time. Let things come naturally. The overwhelming odds are they won’t play professional. Don’t put pressure on them to live up expectations or carry on a legacy. Just sit back and enjoy. Make the experience fun for your child.

So, at your child’s next game, remember to root for the first name.

And remember, kids follow the behavior their parents model. Think about what type of person you want your child to be and model that in the stands.

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!



Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Jane King says:

    Another great article reinforcing how the essence of sport needs to be regained. The joy of sport is becoming overlooked when the goal is competition instead of playing for the joy of the game.

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting Jane, I appreciate it! You are so right, all too often the joy of competition (which is most important) is overlooked for the sake of winning. This then leads to early burnout. Hopefully with more education, and installation of proper goals/expectations this can be reversed in youth sports.

    All the best,

  • Chad Thomas says:

    To all parents:

    You are not perfect, your kids are not perfect, and your behavior won’t always be perfect. Just keep being involved, keep spending time, and keep trying!

    A parent trying his best!

  • Jim Conway says:

    Coaching and Educating the parents are the key. Unfortunately, so many kids give up on the sports they love because it isn’t fun anymore. I have been to many games and have overheard the conversations. Let KIDS be KIDS!!