There is no denying that youth sports today is a completely different ball game (pardon the pun) from when most sports parents were kids themselves. While most of us remember youth sports as a loosely organized way to play baseball with our friends after schools, many of today’s youth athletes find themselves specializing in a particular sport at a younger and younger age, joining high powered travel teams that go to tournaments all over the country and working with trainers and specialists long before they start thinking about playing for their local high school. With so much pressure to perform coming from coaches and parents, some youth athletes are having a hard time coping with the stress.
Wendy and Craig over at Mental Toughness Academy have a ton of great advice for sports parents. We’ve shared some of their posts in our weekly sports blog roundups before, but Craig has such a good story and important lesson for sports parents about the pressure to perform in “What Parents Must Know About Their Children In Sports” that we just had to share some of it here! Here is the story:
Carol, the parent of 10-year-old little league baseball player Mitch, said her son who was showing visible signs of sports fear that were holding him back. From speaking with her, it became obvious Mitch’s father, Ben, was putting way too much pressure on him. After every game, Ben would go over with Mitch everything he did wrong and tell him what he needed to do in practice that week to fix it.
Mitch’s stomach was always tied up in knots every time he stepped onto the field. He tried doing everything he could to please his father, whom he worshiped and wanted to gain his approval.
Mitch’s Dad wasn’t being mean. He was just trying to help his son improve and get better. However, Mitch, like many kids his age, was very sensitive. He was interpreting his Dad’s head shaking, gesturing from the stands and his constantly needling him to work on his game, as “there was something wrong with him.”
Worse yet, Mitch began to believe “I’m not good enough.”
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that a lot of youth athletes probably feel this way. Even if their parent doesn’t mean anything by it, it’s very easy for comments to get taken the wrong way and have a negative impact on your child and their performance. Most kids want to please their parents and make them proud, so they start putting a lot of pressure on themselves to be the best on their team, to be perfect on every play, thinking this is the best way to make Mom and Dad proud. While an internal drive to get better is good, sometimes the pressure gets too much and kids actually get so afraid of letting their parents down that they freeze up on the field/court.
There is nothing wrong with wanting your child to excel in sports, or anything for that matter, but it’s important to remember that they are still kids, not miniature adults! What you say and how you say it might not always come across the way you mean it to, for better or worse. Make sure that you aren’t somehow insinuating that your love and approval is dependent on their performance on the field! That kind of pressure is too much for anyone, especially a little kid that just wants you to be proud of them.