Are You Fighting Your Youth Athlete’s Battles?


As parents we all want to protect our children and try to shield them (or at least soften the blow) from some of the harsh lessons life throws at you while growing up. But there is a fine line between trying to help your child navigate the difficulties of life and doing all the work for them. Are you one of those sports parents that fight all your youth athlete’s battles for them (also known as a helicopter parent)? You might not be doing your child as big a favor as you thought.

Janis Meredith is the sports mom behind JBMThinks, one of the best sports parenting blogs Are You Fighting Your Youth Athlete’s Battles?around. We were lucky enough to interview Janis here on the SportsSignup blog and asked her what mistakes she sees sports parents making and here’s what she said;

Many parents try to fight their kids’ battles for them and they are not doing them any favors when they do. They also try to manipulate situations, always wanting to smooth the path for the kids. I understand wanting our kids to have good experiences and there’s nothing wrong with looking for good youth sports environments, but sometimes they go overboard, like looking for a team where their child will have no one to challenge him at his position. Life is just not like that, and we will help our kids be stronger if we stop trying to make things perfect for them all the time.

We think Janis makes a great point. There is nothing wrong with trying to give our children the best possible chances to succeed, but you can’t do all the hard work for them and expect them to get anything out if it! One of the most important life lessons that youth sports teaches you is that sometimes you lose; even when you put in all the hard work and the time, you still lose. It’s definitely not fun to lose by one run or one basket (any more than it’s fun to get blown out of the water), but learning how to deal with loss and being able to bounce back from disappointment is a life lesson kids have to learn. And isn’t it better to learn that while you are young and it doesn’t matter so much?

Life isn’t perfect and that’s okay! Things aren’t always going to go your way but youth sports should be about teaching kids how to take pride in what they’ve done and understand that success does come to those who work for it. Fighting all your child’s battles on their behalf means they never learn how to stand up on their own; and sooner or later they’ll need to know how to do that!

Now obviously there are circumstances where an adult can (and should) definitely step in and intervene.  For instance, if you suspect your child is being bullied by their teammates you have the right to bring up your concerns to the coach. “Kids will be kids” is no excuse for one child tormenting another, especially to the point where they don’t want to play sports anymore. But should you really interfere because another player only passed to your son three times during the football game and five times to another player? Maybe not.

There is no cut and dry method to follow when it comes to fighting your child’s battles. Sometimes kids need adults to step in and go to bat for them, but other times it’s better to let your youth athlete work it out themselves. Most parents mean well but you have to ask yourself when it’s time to fight and when it’s time to wait on the sidelines.

Have you ever fought a battle on your child’s behalf you wish later you had let them manage alone?