All-Star Parenting

Working with youth athletes has been an experience that has taught me several lessons. It seems like every week I’m able to learn from our athletes at Total Athletic Development, most of whom aren’t even able to drive. Getting to work with them and seeing them progress and become so interested in strength and conditioning is a reward within itself. Some of these kids will continue to play their sport through high school and college while some will be done with their sport for good at the end of the season.

Don't Push

Youth athletes have been pushed to perform at a higher rate than ever before. Youth athletes now have to worry about their try outs for their travel teams and impressing their parents with their performance on the field. At the end of the day, these are children, not professional athletes under contracts. They should be concerned with having fun and learning basic movement patterns, fundamental skills, and team work. Parents who take an active role in truly caring about what is best for their children when it comes to sports will ultimately have the most successful children.

The Role of Genetics

Parents who have children in sports must remember that sports are more than likely a very small part of their child’s life. However, if the parents make it a negative experience, it could backlash in the long term. Parents can often encourage children to work harder in sports and life, but they need to be sure that their child's athletic performance doesn’t become how they view their children. One thing that parents might forget is that if a child doesn’t perform well athletically, it’s a result of the parents' genetics. With that being said, does it ever really make sense for a parent to yell at a child for not being an elite youth athlete? In fact, wouldn’t it make more sense for children to yell at their parents for passing on bad genes?

Praise Effort

Parents need to praise the effort that their kids put into whatever they do. Also, a parent should never tell her child that another child is better at the same thing. What would happen if every time we went to work, we were told by our boss that our coworker is better than we are? We would hate work. We would hate everything that revolves around work, and eventually it would take a toll on our personal life. Children aren't any different than anyone else. They are people who thrive on encouragement and don’t respond to being threatened or demeaned.

Support & Encourage

Coaching youths is becoming more and more difficult as parents want more control of what their kids do when they're at their practice or skilled training session. Parents should be there to show support and encourage their children, not coach them through every drill. The practices and games are a time where children can learn to make decisions on their own without an immediate consequence. It might be hard for a parent to stand there and watch his child perform something incorrectly, but remember that people learn from mistakes that they make on their own, not from someone doing everything for them. When a child makes a great play, applaud his effort, but when he does something that might be wrong, he doesn't need to be reminded of it. He already has coaches and teammates to give him cues on how to react better if the situation happens again. If your child misses the game winning foul shot, you yelling at him isn’t going to help him make it in the future. When something like this happens, the parent can either let it be or he can try to build the child back up by being a positive influence.

Strength Training

One of the scariest things someone can witness when they watch youth sports is the parent that knows just enough to be dangerous. While strength training can yield incredible results for anyone looking to improve their athletic performance, it can also be detrimental to young children whose parents just give themselves the title of strength coach. Some parents do have a good base knowledge and can do wonders for their children, but if a parent is having his child do what he read that Arnold did, everyone is at risk. The child is at risk for serious injury and the parent will run the risk of being disappointed in his child. If a child is 12 or under, he should focus on performing body weight movements. If a push-up is good, adding a heavy load doesn’t make it better. If you're concerned with how much your child can bench press, squat, and deadlift, please stop right now. Children aren't ready for very much volume or load despite what parents of “elite” athletes think. Repetitive movements with an external load and bad form on a frame that isn't strong or developed yet will lead to an increased risk of injury.

elitefts™ Youth Hoodie

Move on from Mistakes

I would be lying if I said that I've always remained calm and collective when dealing with a group of very young children, but like anything else, we have to move on from our mistakes and learn how to avoid them in the future. There are many life lessons that children can learn from playing sports, but if parents and coaches make it miserable for kids to play, they will never listen or care what you have to say. In the article “What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent..and What Makes a Great One” by Steve Henson, he points out that nearly 75 percent of children drop out of sports completely by age 13. I understand that most people don’t know if their children will receive a full scholarship for their sport by age 13, but if kids become so frustrated that they quit, they're leaving a lot of potential and growth go to waste.

For parents in sports, remember to focus on these areas:

  • Basic movement patterns
  • Teamwork
  • Encouragement, not coaching
  • Fun