What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform

August 16, 2013 — 283 Comments

In my work at Growing Leaders, we enjoy the privilege of serving numerous NCAA and professional sports teams each year. After meeting with hundreds of coaches and athletes, I noticed an issue kept surfacing in our conversations. Both the student-athlete and the coach were trying to solve the same problem.  What was that problem?

The parents of the student-athletes.

parents

You may or may not believe this, but even in Division One athletics, parents stay engaged with their child’s sport, often at the same level they did through their growing up years. Moms will call coaches and advise them on how to encourage their daughter or son. Dads will call coaches and ask why their kid isn’t getting more playing time. Parents will call strength and conditioning coaches and inquire what they’re doing about their child’s torn ligament. Each of these calls is understandable. After all, no one has more at stake than the parent of a performer. They love their child, they’ve invested in their child and they want to see a “return on their investment.” Some athletes refer to their mom as their P.A. (personal assistant) or their agent. I know a mother who watches her collegiate daughter’s gymnastics practice behind the glass, all the while, calling and leaving voicemails for the coach on what should be done for her little girl. I even know sets of parents who moved into a condo across the street from their freshman athlete’s university. They didn’t want to miss a thing, and they certainly didn’t want to neglect to provide direction. I understand this. I am a father of two kids myself.

What we parents may not recognize is the pressure and angst this kind of involvement applies. May I tell you what student-athletes are telling me?

  1. I love my mom, but when she does this, I get the feeling she doesn’t trust me.
  2. My parents are great, but I feel like I have multiple coaches telling me what to do and I get stressed out over it.
  3. I’m getting blackballed by my teammates because my mother keeps texting me and my coach, to give suggestions. I wish she would chill.
  4. I feel like I’m never quite good enough; I can never fully please my parents.

Moving From Supervisor to Consultant

According to years of research on athletes, I believe parents have a more productive impact on their kids by making a change in their style. When our kids were younger, we played the role of supervisor. We were right there on top of the issues. And we should be—they were young and needed our support. As they age, parents must move to the role of consultant. We’re still involved, still supportive, but we allow our kids to grow up and self-regulate. When we fail to do this—we can actually stunt their growth. It’s a bit like teaching our kids to ride a bike. Remember this process?  First, we gave them a tricycle. The three wheels made it almost impossible for them to fall off, and they got used to pedaling a vehicle. Then, they moved to a bicycle. It was bigger and had only two wheels. A little more scary. So we initiated them on that bike with training wheels. That prevented bad accidents. Eventually, however, we took the training wheels off, and our involvement became a tender balance of two ingredients: support and letting go. Did you catch that? Support and letting go.

What We Should Say When Our Kids Perform

The most liberating words parents can speak to their student-athletes are quite simple. Based on psychological research, the three healthiest statements moms and dads can make as they perform are:

Before the Competition:                                    After the competition:

  1. Have fun.                                                    1. Did you have fun?
  2. Play hard.                                                    2. I’m proud of you.
  3. I love you.                                                    3. I love you.

Six Simple Words…

For years, I wondered what the student-athlete would say about this issue. After decades of work with athletes, Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller found out. They suggest six simple words parents can express that produce the most positive results in their performing children. After interacting with students, they report:

College athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response:

“I love to watch you play.”

That’s it. Those six words. How interesting. How liberating to the parent. How empowering to the student-athlete. No pressure. No correction. No judgment. (That’s the coach’s job). Just pure love of their child using their gift in competition.

When I learned this, I reflected on the years my own kids competed in sports, recitals, theatrical plays, and practices. Far too often, I wanted to play a role that added more stress to their life. Instead, I now realize—I just need to love them. And to love watching them play.

From a parent’s view—this is the best way to cultivate an emotionally healthy kid.

I am pleased to introduce a brand new book. It’s titled Twelve Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid, and it’s a collection of research and ideas to help you as a parent, teacher, coach, employer or youth worker to better equip your students to thrive in life.

Order Your Copy Here!

New launch price of $9.99.

12HM_CTA_OrderToday

  • Pingback: Discipleship Ministry International, Inc. – What Parents Should Say

  • Derick MacFawn

    I fully agree. Just the other day my son was playing golf in a four day tournament. My wife had text me on the first day saying he started the first few hole great! Then a few missed putts and all came crashing down. My wife was so upset and frustrated at him. I felt the same way she did when I heard he was falling apart. My first reaction was to pull him out of the tournament because of his behavior on the course. These thoughts have crossed my mind many times. But this day I had an overwhelming peace. I decided to not yell at him or even pull him out. All I said to him that day was, ” I love you and mom and dad are proud of you. Ever since that day, I have had a different outlook on my son and me ..his father. As a final thought, as I pondered my role as a sports father, I realized all the while I was telling him to calm down, it was I who needed calming down. Things we learn in life if we just open our eyes a little longer and a little wider, we can see past our pointing finger. I love my son.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thanks so much for sharing Derick! The way you experienced peace in the moment that your wife and son depended on you is powerful. Thank you for your leadership!

    • teachermomva

      You rock Derick.

    • Josh S.

      Derick,

      As a previous junior, collegiate, and professional golfer. You handled this perfectly. Golf has a way of frustrating players more than any sport I have ever come across. However, given the time to sit down and evaluate what happened in that moment, your son will learn his emotions held him back and he will be better for it. In the moment, I gurantee he felt overwhelming dissappointed in himself, and when a parent reacts the same way, it only intensifies that feeling. I wish more people could understand this principle. Thank you for sharing.

  • Contey67

    hard for me to just sit and watch without saying anything especially when I know they can do better…example this morning scrimmage game…all summer long I tried to go running, biking, doing something to keep her in shape but she always found excuses after few instances of actually doing something…. well today she had hard time running during the entire game and obviously it annoyed me and I let her know about it…..I know it is bad but nothing I can do about it…sorry kiddo

    • mw

      what a jerk you are

    • Anonymous

      This post frustrates me for many reasons. First, you state, “hard for me to just sit and watch without saying anything.” You must not have read this article clearly. It is not asking you to say nothing, rather it is stating that parents can support emotionally healthy children by saying how much they love them and how much they love to watch them play. Also, your complete disregard for punctuation and proper sentence structure also frustrates me. Unfortunately, it reminds me of how ignorant some parents can be. Saddening. :-(

      • JohnD

        No need to attack her! And her post doesn’t make her a bad parent anymore than you correcting her grammar makes you a good one! Some children can’t be left to their on devices, it’s up to the parent to make that determination! God forbid a parent pointing out to a child something they should have done. She didn’t say that she yelled and screamed at the child, only that she expressed her displeasure at the child for not preparing herself properly! If you think that she was over the top then I am guessing you are one of those parents that don’t believe in kids playing dodge ball.

        • Annoyed

          She expressed displeasure with the child for not performing to the standard that the child clearly did not want to meet in the first place? I could (maybe) understand being annoyed with the kid if it was a, “Mom will you pay for my sport?” and then the kid flaked out, but if it was a, “Hey, I signed you up for Softball this year, you better get ready to practice this summer!” when she had friends and hobbies that were more intriguing, then yes, the mother (or father) is a bad parent for imposing their will and expressing it in a negative fashion. Just because you want your kid to earn a sports scholarship doesn’t mean they are willing or even want to. Do your child a favor and help them find a fascinating hobby that could lead to a real career someday, help them pursue music, literature, horticulture, computer technology, dance, chemistry, volunteer work, something! People excel when they pursue their passions, not when their whipped into meeting standards. Extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation, look it the fuck up.

          • Adam

            Sports can and does teach the child discipline, hard work, team work, sportsmanship and how it all pays off in getting better athletically. Parents play a huge part in balancing support with encouragement and what is expected of the child. The above person knew the sport was coming up and that his daughter needed to be in shape. She spurned his counsel and he had every right to reprimand her for it. It needs to be done in a very constructive way but also where she learns the lesson. Sometimes that means getting harsh but not everytime.
            If the child chooses to play and is not whipped into laying then they need to understand the expectations. This prepares them for their career and other life situations.

          • MomT

            I agree. I think there is a fine line between pushing a child too far and giving them advice they need for the future. I think if a child makes a commitment to a team and they take actions that are less than that commitment, it is ok to point that out when they run into difficulty. You let them fail just enough to learn. For example, my daughter did not want to eat the breakfast her coach recommended before a swim meet. She fought it. So, I let her pick the unwise breakfast. During warm ups, she hit the physical wall after about 1/2 a lap. You could see it. When she came back to me, I asked her about it and she told me she had no energy. We talked about why that was – i.e., no fuel in her system – and how to make that better. Now she eats much better before every race and enjoys herself!

            My son didn’t want to play football anymore during one season and stopped trying. We talked about how he could quit at the end of the season but how he had made a commitment to his team and how that commitment meant he had to give the effort he had in him to give. That it wasn’t fair to his coaches, his teammates, or himself to do it half-assed. He made a promise and he needed to see it through.

            Sports can be an incredible learning opportunity – but you have to let your kids manage their own participation. I always tell my kids to have fun (in fact, I make them take a pledge before every game or meet that they will have fun, do their best, and walk away with their head held high knowing they did all that they could to achieve the result they wanted – whether they did or not). But I certainly will use examples to help them learn the skills they need through life.

          • Steven

            one of the items that the author says to say before the game is to “play hard”. Sports are for fun, but they teach kids to work towards a goal and meet their potential. There’s a fine line between encouraging your child to achieve their goals and work hard to be a good athlete vs being overbearing and never satisfied. As parents, it’s easy to watch your child and see that they have a “bad game”. sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce their way. However, if the child looks disinterested or unmotivated, then clearly that’s disappointing and the parent should try to identify if that was a one time thing or if expectations need to be reset.

          • cathy

            wow, was that necessary?

      • JobRunner

        Ha Ha, too funny commenting on sentence structure!

    • Proud Mom

      Keep it up as you are now acting and you will take all the fun and joy out of the sport for your daughter. Is that really what you want? Start paying more attention to how you’re performing as a parent and less to your daughter’s performance on the field. That’s her coach’s job.

    • Ziv Bnd

      Did the kid want to excell? And did she choose not to stay in shape or choose to skip working out? And did the Dad /Mom work with her to help her stay in shape for the scrimmage when she wanted to?

      Then a “Sorry Kiddo” is not inappropriate.

      When I complained about my coach wanting me to play in a summer B-Ball league, my Mom just asked, “Do you want to be as good as you can be?”

      I grumbled and worked half as hard as I should have. And so did my team. Guess what happened at State.
      I still regret that.

    • Guest

      Why did it annoy you? It’s your daughter’s game, not yours. Her performance has no bearing whatsoever on you.

      Maybe she didn’t want to do anything all summer because she’s feeling pressured and burned out, and she needed a break.

      Regardless, if you’d just kept quiet and let her experience the natural consequences of her actions without judging her, she’d probably have a shot at actually learning a lesson. In the meantime, all you managed to do was make her resent you, and probably resent the sport too.

      • JobRunner

        It is 100% normal to feel annoyed, disappointed with your child’s performance, after all we are not perfect. Strict and over the top parents are one thing, wanting your child to do better is another. It is a struggle to find that balance of how far to push your child that’s why we come to these blog sites. Iam taking the road to act as consultant to my child’s hurdles in sports, they have to fall hard sometimes to go forward.

      • Adam

        WELL, well well, let’s just let our kids choose to act and be like they want. Then why even be a parent? You are supposed to judge your kid, direct them, guide them, teach them. IT”S WHAT PARENTS DO. IF we left them to themselves they will be undisciplined, irresponsible and them become a leach on society with entitlement issues. And boy oh boy are we ever in that era right now because we have let our kids just do what they want. But don’t judge ooooooooooooo. You will corrupt them. You corrupt them if you don’t. Welcome to our new society.

    • Debbie Burton

      Are you for real? Or is this an attempt at sarcasm? If not then you need some parenting lessons. You do realise this is HER life, HER sporting ability, HER choice to run better or train better? Or are you trying to live through her sporting ability? Jerk!

      • JobRunner

        Too Harsh, I think they’re trying their best!

      • Helper

        That’s a bit mean. Her child seems kinda lazy, that’s all.

    • Anonymous

      What happened to teaching children that if you want to succeed you need to work hard at it? Scores do matter. The youth sports that give out medals for all athletes who participate are failing our children. Telling them that they don’t have to try. My son will have a horrible game and when I ask how he thought he did he says “I did my best.”. I know that is not true because he has done so much better in previous games. After explaining to him that I know he can do better and showing him how he can do better the next game was amazing and he was so proud of himself. He then felt confident in his ability and worked harder the next game. I think Contey67 at least is trying to teach his/her daughter to work hard and because she chose not to she will pay the consequences for it. At least Contey67 is an involved parent and not absent like so many others. We coddle our children and that is why there are so many who think they are entitled to all the free benefits the government hands out instead of working for what they want. So Contey67 good for you for but remember to tell her you love her!

      • QuenjaB

        I think I agree… depending on how the initial post was meant. I think it’s important to teach our children to work hard if they want to succeed. Not everyone is going to win every time, especially if they haven’t worked hard for the win. One of my biggest pet peeves is the “participation medal”. The part of Contey67′s post that states:

        “she had hard time running during the entire game and obviously it annoyed me and I let her know about it…..I know it is bad but nothing I can do about it…sorry kiddo”

        could be read two ways. If this meant that Contey let the girl know about how annoyed s/he was with the performance, I think that can be harmful to the parent/child relationship and lead to resentment. However, if “let her know about it” means that s/he made the daughter aware that the difficulty she was experiencing during the game was the result of her lack of effort over the summer, then I think it was a parenting opportunity well taken advantage of. Now that child knows that she has to continue to work hard if she expects to excel at her chosen sport. “Sorry [about the rough game], Kiddo. [Next time, I'm sure you'll want to work harder.]“

      • mmajct100

        I believe that being over involved is also a form of coddling – not allowing the child to make decisions and then take responsibility for them. I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to grow up knowing that there are consequences – good and bad – to every aspect of life and it is up to THEM to make the right decisions, not me.

      • joe

        No, she is over-involved and over-invested and you turned a discussion of overparenting into a political screed. Try dropping off your kid one day at their game and going away.

      • Neandrathal

        Thank you for having some sense instead of criticizing like so many other people tend to do!!

      • JohnD

        I agree anonymous! Debbie, I bet if you exchanged the words “sporting”, “runs” and “train” with “study”, “grades” and “education” you response would be different!

    • smariel

      I was a div 1 all-american soccer player in college. Full scholarship to a top school, the works. My father was like you. What I can tell you is that if your kid is a competitive athlete they are getting ALL the feedback they need from their coach, teammates, and own results. They do not need a parent layering on top of what is already an intensely competitive environment. What would have helped me play better, frankly, was an adult who could help me relax and not stress so much before competitions – someone who helped me see the fun in it, because it is a game. The best athletes in the world are able to do this, fyi. How nice it would have been if my own folks had heeded the advice of an article like this. You have a chance to. If you don’t, maybe your kid will end up like me, so disillusioned with her father she hardly talks to him anymore.

      • allie68

        right on smariel. I played a division 1 sport as well and my father was the same overbearing, judgemental, obsessive a-hole as the contey67. his presence nearly made me quit my sport multiple times, but I’m glad I stuck with it, if only to get a scholarship at a school very far away from him. I held so much resentment for him that I didn’t even want him coming to my college games.

      • betsyb

        Allie68 and Smariel, do you think that your parents’ being overbearing, even though you hated it, might have been a factor in your making D1 teams? I am doing my best to NOT be overbearing. I want to heed articles like this. I want my son to be the best he can be and not burn out. He has a 4-minute mile, so he is D1 material for sure from a talent perspective. And he adores running. But his discipline…horrible. Rest, nutrition, stretching routines, etc. When I read articles like this that talk about research that was done that shows parents should just butt out and say “I love you,” I always wonder: are there any professional athletes out there whose parents really did lay off and just say “I love to watch you play”? Or are there mostly professional athletes who made the pros b/c of their overbearing, over-involved parents? In other words, are the kids who drop out of athletics the ones whose parents did NOT drive them, nag them, manage them, etc.

        • Letterman90′s

          Betsyb: I’m certainly not judging, but I think you’re missing one key point. It’s not whether they play D-1 or professional sports or not, because there are plenty of highly successful athletes who had supportive parents just as there are plenty who had overbearing parents. I played D-1 football, and had many close friends have a professional career, as did my father. My father was always supportive, first and foremost, but he also offered advice, sometimes at my urging and sometimes unsolicited. The key was the advice was never critical or destructive. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t tough on me, but the key was, he was always my loving father first. Where I truly see the difference now in my late 30′s is in how the two different afore mentioned subgroups (overbearing vs supportive parent) handled their success and what kind of men they became after their athletic days were over, ie, what kind of fathers and husbands they are now. I can tell you almost to a man that those with overbearing parents struggled much more in those “after sports” aspects of life than those who had loving and supportive parents that didn’t live vicariously through their children’s successes. Certainly there are exceptions to the rule, but those are my observations from the inside.
          Work ethic is a complicated matter on its own, but it is something that generally is a learned behavior. There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, in pushing a child to work to achieve THEIR goals, but push too hard, and it stops being fun and they will resent it and move away from it. My dad always explained in defeat or success how hard work in the offseason helped or hurt, but he was never the kind of guy to make me get up early and train. Interestingly, by showing examples of hard work paying off, he didn’t have to do that. My brother and I learned, or started doing it on our own, absent of threat or punishment.

    • jenn

      Yes you should have said something. It needs to be stressed that hard work pays off.

      • Jess

        Let yourself think that? The talent is there and never again or elsewhere is life such a clean-cut game. Memorializing this or that move, record, profile, anything. The top of the pile here can mean absolutely nothing on several other fronts, not to mention anything will present its own challenges and rewards, and a person’s goals, prides, passions, and other measures have to be specific to them for them to orient toward best outcomes in their own life.

    • mmajct100

      Let your child learn the consequences. If the sport is really important to HER she will prepare, if not, let her just do it for fun. If she has a hard time running – laugh it off and she will get the hint as to what she should do. I am learning to disengage the hard way, but it has made my relationship with my kids and sports so much better. I no longer watch practice as that is a time for the coach and athletes. Games and promotion tests (martial arts) I will always be in attendance, but practices are not for me. Just my 2 cents. Let go of the control and let your child do what she wants with sports!

    • Suzie Null

      I understand the frustration. But sometimes kids and teens need to learn about cause and effect by experiencing the consequences of their actions. SHE needs to learn that if you skip conditioning in the summer, the first practices will be painful and you won’t be able to play as well as you’d like. And, since that might be when the coach starts making decisions about starting lineups, it could effect you for the whole season. But in order to learn that, SHE needs to be allowed to make some mistakes and learn from them.

    • Jason Bourne

      there are no bad kids, only bad parents. you are a bad parent.

    • Guest

      Think longer term. Someday your child will go to work for a boss that you could do better than. Someday they will marry someone that you could do better than. Teach your child how to make the coach, boss, and future spouse a better coach, boss, and spouse and you will never have to worry about them again. Just be careful they may learn how to make you a better parent! Good luck.

    • Neandrathal

      Geez, what a bunch of judgmental parents who are criticizing Contey67!! While I understand what Tim Elmore has to say about helicopter parents on the athletic field, I also understand when a parent tries to guide his/her child in the right direction. Yes, there are times we need to sit back and play the spectator but Contey67 didn’t say anything about calling up the coach or yelling at his kid; he was trying to help motivate her. I would never e-mail, call, or text the coaches but if my daughter is consistently lacking effort in her academics or athletics, I sit down with her and try to find out what’s going on and I try to give her a pep talk. Does this make me a jerk too? I always tell my kids that I love them and that I’m very proud of them no matter how they do but I also tell them that I expect them to work toward their potential in everything they do.

      • JohnD

        Excellent post! My 15 year old son is great about lifting, running, and speed & agility drills, at this point! But, I can assure you when he began a couple of years ago, I had to stay on him and constantly remind him of the benefits it would have in the future. He will be the first to tell you that it has paid huge dividends, and if I hadn’t stayed on him in the beginning he would never have done it on his on accord! Now it is smooth sailing and we are well past all the early issues…

    • Anon

      Your mom should go to work with you, sit over your shoulder and tell you all the ways that you’re not living up to her expectations. Then you’d really know that she loved and cared about you.

    • sea-libtard

      Good troll. You got all these people hook, line, and sinker.

    • subtlefist

      you are going to destroy your childs interest in the sport. They arent pros they are kids and pushing them to train like pros wil destroy their young bodies. Shame on you

    • guest

      everyone who responded to contey67 with negativity should look long at themselves. your children are your own to raise as you please. if somebody wants to be an asshole to their kid, its their business. everybody is a bad parent in retrospect and nobody is perfect. maybe everyone that is so righteous should get off the computer and go hug their kid, tell them you love them. as far as an attack on punctuation, this ain’t english class! Fuck grammer!
      =~D

    • Paul Pallante

      As a coach, I’d hate to have you on the sidelines…as a parent, all I can say is that some kids didn’t win the parent lottery.

    • nightarrow85

      I think everyone replying to Contey67 is projecting some of their own experiences. She didn’t say how she ‘let her [daughter] know about it’. Was it a discussion? Did the daughter complain about having a hard time running? Did Contey use a disappointed tone, or a supporting one? Heck – we don’t even know if the daughter wanted to play the sport, or if she was pressured into it, or maybe had been playing for awhile and maybe wants to quit.

      Calm down folks. The whole issue this article describes is a balancing act. The important thing is not to act like your child’s coach. Don’t push them with advice on playing, or training. Ask if they had fun, tell them you love them, offer advice if they ask you for it or bring an issue to your attention. You are the consultant (as the article states), not the coach.

      The scope of this is with training, and playing. Obviously if your child is having struggles with behavior (poor sportsmanship), a medical issue, etc. then you are the ‘coach’ for that situation. This article isn’t telling you to coddle your child – its telling you to do the parenting, and not the sports coaching.

    • LisaS212

      Just a thought — psychologically, girls often need to hear the ‘why’ you want them to do something. Explain to her specifically why the conditioning will benefit her. However, she has to be invested in her sport to want to improve.

    • harv555

      Contey, the purpose of kids tournaments is to teach the child about life and about how to handle situations. As much as you want to help, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make her drink! You need to wait, have patience, and be supportive during the period of time that your daughter is learning that if she wants to succeed she needs to put in the practice time beforehand. She has to have the desire to succeed. It may be that she is not that motivated to succeed in this area. Not everyone is cut out to succeed in every area? Were you? I know it is hard. But you need to have patience. Wait until the child says: “Daddy, I want to improve. Will you help me?” Then you have to make the time when she is available (not just when you are available) to go outside to run, bike, and to get in great shape. You need to have the bucket of water available when she is ready to drink. This may never occur in sports, but it may occur in other areas. You need to be ready to respond when the fire is lit on the inside of your child. Your job is to add kindling to the fire, gently, and lovingly. Watch out, before you know it, your life will be filled with tournaments, games, practices, purchases, and you will want to come up for air once in a while!! Best of luck.

  • donald

    It is truly amazing to see how many parents are standing on the sidelines yelling at their kids or the coaches or the umpires or even at each other . I played golf and not to be the next LaTigre Woodie I just played because I love it . To all you parents thinking you’re doing your kids a favor by transferring all your failures in life onto your kids expecting them to do better . Let them first learn to love the activity without sticking your nose in . Scores don’t mean crap because no one will remember it . They will only remember the fun stuff .

    • anonymous

      Thank you Donald. I am young adult, with athletic parents who consistently pushed sports on me for the entirety of my life. I would have quit had I not been afraid of being seen as a failure in my parents’ eyes. I thought, if I quit, they wouldn’t love me anymore. I have grown up with an intense resentment. I was an excellent sports player- the best in the area, however what I do remember is the hours I played at ODP, Select, Travel Teams, School Teams, …dreaming of dancing. To this day I still dream of it and it’s just been now that I have had the courage to follow my heart. It’s a bit heartbreaking knowing I had spent 20 years of my life following these rules for….nothing. I would have changed it all had I been told to follow my own passion and listen to the little voice inside my head. But because I grew up with this idea that I had to do everything my parents told me, I feel as though my childhood has been void of MY memories. I legitimately have memories simply of dreaming. :/

      • anonymous

        I would like to add that I am aware that they loved (and still love) me. More than anything in the world. However, I just think people show love in different ways and sometimes a child would like to feel loved instead of coached. However, that is my take. I do not have children and thus cannot relate to the whole ‘pushing sports onto your child.’

      • donald

        Thank you for your reply , I was really lucky to have the parents and brothers and sister that I have . My Dad brought home some used Golf Clubs from one of his work colleagues and thought I might like to try it out , I did and I was grateful that neither my parents or my brothers expected anything from me accept finding something that I could be passionate about . My brothers all three played football , baseball , wrestling, racquetball, and that was fine because they wanted to play those sports and believe me they were also the best and my Dad and Mom were both very enthusiastic observers but they never showed any disappointment in any of our abilities . No stupid comments like well I guess you just had an off day or you will do better next time . Because they know there are more important things in life than some stupid game . P.S. I am Fifty years old now and I can still play golf . many people are now pretty FUBAR because of some of bad injuries in high school sports , so I do not miss any bit of it.
        .

        • joe

          Games are not stupid. Just sayin’

        • Suzie Null

          I’m 41, and reading these comments makes me realize how different it was when we were kids. I played volleyball, ran track, and ski raced in high school. I don’t remember EVER seeing a parent at a practice, unless they had come to pick us up and saw the last 10 minutes or something. Then, maybe, they might say something generally supportive like, “your serves are improving,” or “you looked really confident out there.”

          My parents were very supportive and came to every game, meet, and helped stage ski races. When my ski coach didn’t plan races for me, my dad even drove me to races up to 8 hours away. But I don’t remember much coaching from my parents or any of the others. It just wasn’t done much, except for maybe by “that parent” — and there’s always one. But it definitely wasn’t the prevalent culture. Coaching was left to the coaches. When I ran track our women’s team was competitive and some of the “track dads” (as my mom called them) would stand at the bottom of the stands to record their own and other kids’ times and give split times. But that was a useful service because our coaches couldn’t have done that for everyone, and the information was useful. The parents just gave us the information and maybe occasionally a pointer or two. I don’t remember a parent of a teammate ever say anything really critical. When I was younger and did T-ball or soccer, our parents mostly socialized with each other and yelled out encouraging things when we were up or did well. We’d play and then go get ice cream or hamburgers and there wasn’t much talk about how well or badly we’d played.

          I don’t envy the Millennials and post-Millennials. It seems like their lives are a lot more competitive and pressured, even from a very young age. Maybe sports are now seen as a way to get a scholarship, rather than as a way to learn teamwork, build character, stay fit, make friends, and have fun. And it seems like kids have to start their sports “career” at a much younger age. I’m not sure it’s healthy for a child to be training intensively year-round, or almost year-round in soccer, softball, swimming, etc. from early elementary school (or before) on. Developing bodies are not made for that. Also, how will they have time to explore different options and decide what they really like? I also think that when it’s no longer possible for a high school student to decide to take up a sport and go out for a school team, something is lost. I get it about being competitive and teams taking the best people and all, but I think it’s also losing track of why schools have sports in the first place.

          I don’t know what a solution would be, but I wish we could take a few ideas from the more laid-back 1970′s and 1980′s.

          • Jess

            Developing bodies are not made for that. Also the pressure on scholarship, that is a more sad element to emerge as well. Makes you think what the society has become, and where relationships have gone because of that.

          • always learning parent

            agreed. I remember making the gymnastics team with only a cartwheel, and being able to learn the beam, bars, etc..in high school. Today, no way. You only make the team after years of expensive participation on private teams…it is sad that high school sports require the pre-involvement, and are not for the love of learning a sport.

          • CP

            Well said. As a parent of a 12-year old hopeful, it’s sad how competitive things have become at such an early age. In our region, if you’re not playing on an elite baseball travel team by age 12, it’s unlikely you’ll play on the high school team. (I say “unlikely” because there COULD always be some amazing 9th grader who discovers he has an unknown talent for the game. But the truth is: if 30-40 kids are playing at a higher competitive level and you’re not, how are you going to surpass them?) So the reality is that if my son LOVES baseball and HE wants to play through high school, he needs to practice now. And what 11 or 12-year-old doesn’t need a nudge to practice or train? But this article was a good reminder that my job is to be his biggest fan. I originally received this article months ago from a team mom, and it has stuck with me on days when I wanted to critique his play. Instead, I ask him to play catch.

        • mamabear

          My son is only 6 years old and people (coaches, various child experts from the playground, parents) have been telling us how athletically gifted he is. He LOVES soccer and wants to become a pro soccer player . When he plays or even when he practices, I have always told him that I so enjoy/love watching him play!! I am not just giving good lip service either I genuinely love watching him because he is just so happy when he is playing soccer or doing martial arts, dancing riding his bike etc, However, I am shocked and disgusted at quite a bit of the behavior I see from parents whose children do not perform as good as the parents think they should!! Moreover the lack of support and encouragement towards their children when their child makes an error or whatever makes me sick. I so rarely hear positive affirmations… I love you etc from overly competitive parents. In addition I know for a fact that a few extremely overly competitive parents do not want their son to paly with my son because of his athleticism…..the parents do not want their child to look bad or be upstaged by him!!! My son notices this and thank God he has enough slef esteem to say too bad for them,..it is their loss!! It is also very important to let my son know that I love him because of who he is a kind hearted, cheerful, friendly, intelligent, respectful loving little boy! I have often said to him I love watching you place chess.!!

      • lechatelierite

        I’m with you. I had my own sports (karate, swimming) that I was good at but my Dad especially was always trying to “his” sports that he’d done in high school and college on me: football, soccer, wrestling, track, cross-country. It didn’t matter that I was a second-degree black belt and part-time instructor by 17, or that I was captain of the swim team. I had to do things his way.

        He didn’t really give up until I had a sports-ending injury just before the track season would have started. I didn’t get injured on purpose, but I almost wish I had, just to show him how displeased I was with his rules.

      • Anonymous123

        Thanks for your reply. It was so hard for me to let my daughter choose cheer over the sport she had excelled at for 5 years, but I know it had to be her choice. Your post makes me realize it was right as I don’t want her to resent me for not letting her try what SHE wanted.

    • mmajct100

      Thank you Donald – I was (yes I said was) one of “those” parents and it only left me feeling bad about myself and it really should not be about “me” at all and only about the kids. Hard to break the competitiveness in me, but I am sure working on it. This article is spot on. Sports is suppose to be fun and teaches so many lessons other than competition.

      • donald

        Thank you for your reply , I think I gained my perspective being the youngest of four boys , I spent many hours going to my older brothers football games and wrestling matches and other sporting events , They were all three very talented . I was always proud of them but I also had seen many injuries of their teammates and some were of course life changing . But my amazement was many times focused on the crazy fanatical actions of the parents on game night .
        Truly entertaining to watch.

  • mel5687

    I really wished my parents would have cared enough to come watch me play sports …

    • Proud Mom

      I’m sorry to hear that. I saw the same thing with some of the kids on my kids’ teams. Often, it was parents who’d grown up poor or in another culture where they never played on teams themselves as kids. Whatever the reason, it was their loss. If they’d tried it, I’m sure they would have been proud of you!

  • Proud Mom

    My son started playing soccer at age 12 – after his dad & I divorced. His dad lived nearby but only came to see his son play twice in 7 years. The second game was a playoff for the high school championship. A cold & rainy night, and my son’s team lost in overtime. The rest of the soccer parents swarmed the team with blankets and cups of hot chocolate and comments like, “great game!” or “great season, guys!” Daddy Dearest’s comment? “Well, this was hardly worth MY time,” My son was named to the county-wide all star team and went on to play varsity soccer for an Ivy school. In retrospect, it’s a good thing Daddy Downer was rarely on the scene.

    Tell your student athletes you love them, love to watch them play – I still have great memories of glorious fall days watching my son (now in his 40′s) playing his heart out. He like to come home, eat a LOT, and then stretch out on the rug in front of a fire in the fireplace. It doesn’t take much effort to find something good to say about how a kid played. If he/she didn’t get time on the field for a particular game, say something good about the team. Don’t screw up on this part of parenting – you don’t get any do-overs!

    • Joe

      No wonder you divorced him…. Did you say the same thing to him after sex? Ha ha…..

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      I like your comment, “It doesn’t take much effort to find something good to say about how a kid played.” Great point. I am very sorry to hear about his father.

  • mikes70

    this applies to more than just sports. thanks.

  • Pingback: What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform | Graystone Students

  • Lisa

    My son recently quit figure skating at the age of 14 even though he was in the top 10 in the country. I am left to wonder what pressures I did that made it more difficult for him and will forever be saddened by his decision. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I though I believed I was always supportive it is easy to get caught up in the intensity of the competition and focus on what elements needed work rather than the elements that were perfect. I may never know fully why he quit but will always feel responsible for the lost opportunities.

    • jake

      Maybe kids were making fun ofhim.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thank you for sharing, Lisa. I agree with Jake and want to encourage you in that there are many factors that could contribute to his decision.

  • Jen

    Absolutely agree! As a coach, I asked my parents to step back from the deck and let me do the job for which they were paying me: coach. Their job, I reminded them, was to feed their athletes, support their athletes, get their athletes to practice and meets on time, and love their children. MY job was to teach them, guide them on deck, train them and provide coaching support.

    Later, as a parent of an athlete, I reminded myself of the same. So wonderful the day she ASKED me for advice as a coach, knowing this was my specialty. I answered her question, but never pushed more, just returned to parenting duty. She knows I’m here for her as a parent with coach-like insight available when and if she wants it.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Wow, Jen. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. That is such an encouragement to see you balance the two roles.

    • Gretchen

      But what about the coaches that us parents feel isn’t doing right by their kids? Entering kids in less competitions, but still getting paid for a full season? Do parents have a voice, and will the coach listen?

  • Pingback: Middle School Counseling » Tim Elmore on Parenting Athletes

  • kirkmango

    Tim…nice piece. I was asked by an FB friend of mine to give my take on your piece. Thought it important enough, especially after reading some of the other comments to leaver here as well. Again…nice piece.

    FB response:
    Hey…thanks for asking. This is a good article. Speaks well
    to the positions a parent should take as young athletes grow. I like and
    support the idea of gradually allowing the athlete to gain ownership over their
    sports experience with parents becoming more of a “consultant” rather than the “supervisor” of their offspring’s sports.

    From my perspective, once an athlete reaches high school
    age, a parent really needs to step back and allow circumstances to dictate
    actions by their athlete based on the athlete’s choices. Swooping in to “save
    the day” when adversity raises its ugly head (and it will) is a mistake many a
    parent makes.

    The “learning to ride a bike” analogy is perfect!!!

    As an athlete, I learned MUCH more from facing adversity (and
    unfairness), finding ways to overcome that adversity and/or deal with it, and
    move forward toward successes, than I ever did from “winning.” The easier it
    was…the less I learned. It is tough to see our kids go through situations that,
    possibly, might not be fair. But we must have confidence in our kids own
    abilities to overcome a challenge, an obstacle. Learning, just like success, is
    a process. And the more that a young athlete, or kids in general, take
    ownership over this learning and developing process, the more tools they will
    take into adulthood. This is a long term view…much different than the short
    term view of a parent circumventing this process to make things “easier” or “fairer” for the child. Some don’t seem to understand that an unfair situation can produce the type of desire that pushes one to accomplish things that were
    thought to be impossible. Adversity can be an athlete’s best friend, young or
    old.

    Me personally, sure I would ask questions of a coach before my kids got involved with a program. Wanted to know their philosophy, what they were teaching, what they supported, what they felt were the best ways to
    develop a team…an athlete. Was “winning” the ultimate goal…or was individual and team potential what they were looking for…the latter being critical. I sought information…not with the idea of suggesting anything…that was not my role. And I didn’t necessarily ask the coach but did research using other parents who had been through the program. As far as who played, who started, how much they played, what position they played, or anything to do with game strategy, etc…that, to me, was OFF LIMITS. The only time I would ever consider breaking my rules with regard to being more involved with what was going on would be if safety of the child was in question. In my mind, winning NEVER comes ahead of an athlete’s safety (physically or mentally). Abuses, in any form, would have certainly caused more involvement on my part. I don’t think the article touches on this…something it should.

    All in all it is a really good piece…this article. It talks about our youth sports environment from the stand point that too many parents have become over involved, thus, taking away an important learning process piece…one that leads to life lessons being learned.

    Oh, two other things, as a coach (and as a parent), it was a requirement to always work hard and do your best. “Winning” was secondary to that piece.

    And that statement “I love to watch you play,” was commonly heard in our house. It is something said ALL THE TIME when my kids played sports. Now that same statement is used…but has been rephrased to: “Man…I just loved watching you play.”
    Author: “Becoming a True Champion”

  • lizzy52

    OK, I say those things but I do add to the list “Listen to your coach.”

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Great point, Lizzy. Thank you for sharing.

    • LibsterP

      Yes, I try to model respect for the coach. My daughter is a swimmer and sometimes doesn’t get to swim the events she prefers. I remind her that the coach is balancing the needs of the entire team – he can see the big picture much better than we can. Give the coach the benefit of the doubt.

      LibsterP

  • Anon

    I watched my little sister go from being recruited by multiple universities to quitting mid-season of her senior year. I admit, even I had a part in it at times, but I would watch my father’s frustrations (and old dreams for himself) come crashing down on her. She hasn’t picked up a ball since.

    • James Reinebach

      During the Big 8 Christmas Tournament of 1970 I was leading the conference in shooting percentage and was one of the top ten scorers, but we had lost most of our games against good teams by Jan.1. My folks came to the Tournament, but my Dad was in no way disturbed by our team losing to Kansas in overtime when I missed an important FT, or by having my scoring or playing time later drop off the rest of the season. He once said, “When I put up a basketball hoop behind our house, I had no idea that you boys would become such good players. We just wanted to make sure you didn’t have to go away from home to have fun.” My Dad and Mom wanted us to follow Jesus but let me figure out that my God-given height and ability also had God’s limits. My older musician brother still sings in the chorus of the L.A. Opera, and my hoops brother became vice-president of a major toy corporation. My folks didn’t plan either of these outcomes, but they did quietly support us. I’m really thankful to them.

  • Zach

    I would like to say that although this article makes some good points, I was pushed heavily through sports with my dad being my biggest fan but worst critic. I was told numerous times you need to step it up in numerous ways, which sometimes broke me mentally. This is what made me mentally stronger as an athlete, if I was told I love you after every match I lost I would have been satisfied with that. If you want you child to succeed and to become the best you need to push him/her throughout their youth to become the best. If you want them to be average players that don’t accomplish anything then don’t offer any criticism and let them be satisfied with just being out there. Another thing is college coaches aren’t going to “sugarcoat” their game by any means so its better to prepare them for criticism. Today I am an NCAA wrestler on one of the best teams in the country and absolutely love the sport. I couldn’t be happier with how harsh my dad was on me at times because it helped me become unsatisfied not only with losing in sports, but helped me strive to be the best in life.

    • Wiscy Creek

      Thank you, Zach. Some common sense among all these marshmellows. They are all pretty typical of today’s liberal “Don’t raise expectations, lower the bar” mentality out there. Don’t want to offend the kids; they might wuss out. Go ahead, marshmellows. Keep this attitude up. It’ll make my kids’ path to success that much easier. Ha.

      • donald

        Marshmallows ? I guess you didn’t read my comments . I am not a liberal or a conservative or any other little group you want to try to lump me in with . I am a freethinker . And at Fifty years old I am grateful that I excelled in other things in life But I think you missed my point all together . I am for sports and I mean all sports . But I would say the quickest way for kids to lose interest in a sport is when their parents become a bigger pain in the ass than the sport itself . And regardless if you think that excelling at a particular sport is important or not , Most sports do not pay the bills . And that goes for many high school and college level athletes. Check the ratio of paid athletes to unpaid , sorry to burst your bubble but the fact remains you can use a lot of time training at something that will never return a single solitary cent to your bank account . Great self esteem can benefit you in other parts of life , thats a given . But what about a blown out knee or a debilitating concussion. No one wins that game Creek

        • jim white

          I get your point, and I partially agree. But I get their point too. I played football, and I played in high school and college. It paid for my college. All of it. And of my meals and housing too. It gave me a mindset of not accepting failure and how to be a good teammate, which has been beneficial for me and my counterparts over the years because we understand how to work together and compliment each other to have greater results overall. I have learned that self-sacrifice, when appropriate, is necessary for the desired results. It paid me back in so many ways that only an athlete can know.

          But, had my father helicoptered over me constantly, I would not have learned these lessons for myself. My failures were often the biggest and best teachers, and my biggest motivators. Children won’t learn without some guidance, and left completely to figure things out, will likely not make the best choices. I needed guidance and support. But it needed to stop at that point. I need to resolve to do more as my parents did for me, and be the guardrails on the road to success, using reason and positive reinforcement to keep my girls between the lines.

          • Jess

            I don’t know that sports really translates very well to many other elements of life or life concerns… and scarcely to the kinds of relationships that make full expression of life and success likely. It’s very 2-page-essay, to think of sports lessons as all-encompassing.

      • joe

        So you don’t trust your kid to find their own way? Nice going.

    • lechatelierite

      The whole point of the article is that the best way for parents to do this is to give love and encouragement, and let the coach handle constructive criticism. If the coach isn’t doing enough, then it’s worth talking to your child about alternatives – private instruction, switching schools, or clubs outside of school.

    • Paul Soliz

      The drive came from you, you could of just as easily rebelled and chosen not to wrestle anymore as well. I have seen it happen many times over as a coach in many different sports. The drive comes from the individual but handled properly, yes, the parents can be a huge influence.

    • Anon

      @ Zach: Congratulations on your success! Wanting to be at the pinnacle, like you, is exactly why parents push. Question: How many times did you tell your father you wanted to quit? How many times did you whine & complain about having to go to practice? How many times did your father publicly shame you even after you left everything on the mat? I suspect not many. I suspect you are either incredibly driven on your own (most D1 athletes are) or you naturally speak the same language as your father. Those are enviable qualities and you deserve every ounce of your success, but for parents of kids who do not share those qualities, this post is worth its weight in gold.

    • joe

      zzzzzzzz…

    • Suzie Null

      It’s possible to have high expectations without critiquing your child’s every move. You don’t need to “sugarcoat” anything either.

      But if parents are paying a coach, maybe they should let the coach coach and only intervene if there’s a serious problem.

    • ThompsonW

      I want my kids to be the best at what they want to be the best at – there’s no reason for me to pick a path for them, maybe they will love sports, and maybe they won’t. Are they less of a person if they aren’t “The Best Player”? I personally was never good at sports, but I probably could have been if my parents had started training me at the age of 3 and pushed until I was “The Best”.

      In the long run though, all sports are a game, and win or lose doesn’t really change the course of history. I got my scholarships for academic merit. I threw myself into science and math. I’m probably not “The Best” at any of those things either, but the work I do feels important and fulfilling, much more so than being on a winning soccer team ever did. When I do play any sports now, it’s simply for fun and fitness.

  • Tara

    I needed this. My son is a freshman in high school and is playing football for the very first time. I have been worried about him and what some of the other players have been saying about him behind his back. Yes, I have wanted to contact the coach and ask him somethings but have been putting it off. After reading this I know know why. I have always tried to take up for him when he would get picked on by the other kids, and this has been going on since he was in second grade, so much that he wouldn’t tell me when it happened anymore. I guess it is time for mom to step back and just let him have fun, Thank you for this information.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thank you for sharing, Tara. So glad the article was timely for you.

  • Global Fugitive

    hmm i can see you point, but you don’t write about the flip side of this. Professional athletes who are who they are today because their parents pushed them every step of the way, … and most important of all, grateful for that because it is giving them the lifestyle so many of these kids you write about now will dream about one day soon. Could have, should have, but didn’t.

    • Peggy

      I’d like to know what the college coaches think of this behavior. If so many parents are doing this, why don’t the coaches step in and put an end to it? Does the constant pressure these parents put on the coach have an impact on the amount of playing time the athlete gets? Is there an element of success (more playing time, sense of favoritism) to this parental behavior?

      • Leanne

        Hi, Peggy – we are not college coaches but are coaches of 10 & 11 year old kids. Parents constantly overstepping their grounds and putting pressure on the coaches has zero impact on playing time, etc. The coach has a vision for the team as a whole, not for individual players. Coaches do want to know about things that are affecting the kids (death in family, injury, etc) but don’t want to hear, “Jimmy played defence the last two games, he should be centre next game” or “why are you doing that drill? I think you should do it this way…”. Many parents have a lot to say, but if the coach says, “do you want to come on the ice/field and help out?” the parent goes running the other way.
        Parents have to remember that coaches have the team in mind with everything they do AND this is a volunteer job (until you do hit the higher level) – they do it because they love it and want to see the kids get better but most importantly – have FUN.

      • TexasAthleteCoach

        Peggy, I’m TexasAthleteCoach from below. I coached college swimming at the D2 level. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to your ‘playing time’ question since it doesn’t apply to my sport. When it comes down to relays, decisions are made based on points needed to win and aggregated times from the athletes…it’s pretty black and white, and kids and parents know this.

        What I can tell you is that it’s rarely so simple and often very delicate. When a coach talks to a parent about their behavior, sometimes that still comes back to the athlete and there is an element of embarrassment for the college athlete that can break trust with the coach. That’s the last thing anyone wants or needs.

        Over-involved parents are often loud cheerleaders, great parent group motivators, and exceptional allies in other ways. Because of their desire to involve themselves with the coach, there is often an open line of communication – but it frequently only goes one way.

        To be quite frank, the support thing is something that coaches at all levels need to address, but it is exceptionally important for developmental coaches to set healthy boundaries. I’m a developmental coach too, so I’m using the pronoun ‘we’ here — We don’t always do a good job of that because it’s difficult.

        Case in point: We had an extremely talented 9-year-old girl (now in college) who swam some US top-16 times when she was 8. Even at that age, her dad pushed her hard. He was a super nice guy, former college football player who ended up with two daughters. He was smart – he learned the sport and how we talked to his kids. He was loyal and supportive, at all meets, and encouraged the parents to do fun stuff for the kids. But he also attended every single workout and gave his kids hand signals from the stands during workout. With two of us on deck and 35 kids in the pool, that’s a good athlete/coach ratio. And we paid as much attention to both his daughters as anyone else in the pool. — My mentor coach sat him down and said, “Look, if you want your kids to enjoy this sport and make it out of junior high, go home. Work in the yard. Or go walk the track if it’s a pain for you to drive twice. But you can’t be in here while she’s swimming. She’s 9, you’re applying so much pressure that she isn’t having fun, and the stuff you’re telling her just confuses her. So go home – let this be her thing, not yours.”

        If more coaches had hard conversations like this early on, it would be less of an issue at the college level where the stakes are higher.

    • Paul Soliz

      You are talking about something that happens 1% of the time. The article still applies to the majority of cases. If the coach indicates that the child has the kind of talent that may allow them to consider to become a professional athlete someday, even then the child has to have the drive and passion on their own to ever see that come to fruition. The parent still should only offer the positive support and opportunities.

    • smariel

      Global, what you’re talking about doesn’t exist. I was a div 1 all-american in college. Not a single athlete I knew got there because their parents pushed them. Many did because their parents supported them, for sure, drove them to games, tournaments, paid for equipment and coaching. But pushed them? No. To be a truly exceptional athlete it has to be internal, as well as physical. If the only reason you are at the track is your parents then you’re not going to last. Domineering parents are frankly a detriment to an athlete’s performance, something to overcome, deal with and agonize over.

    • Suzie Null

      Professional athletes are who they are because they pushed THEMSELVES. And they most likely had parents who supported them and provided opportunities for them to push themselves.

    • Sunflower

      I would add two helpful questions my parents asked me: what did you enjoy the most about today’s game and was there anything you wish went differently. This taught me to be an objective evaluator of my performance and often led me to ask my parents for guidance and support…

      Additionally, I think it is important to note that talent and skill in an area doesn’t equate to a passion for that area. I rarely needed more prompting or pushing than an occasional reminder to train in off season or do conditioning because I loved my main sports. It was fun. I WANTED to do it all…. Parents likely would be better served finding out their child’s passion and supporting that than pushing an area the child is unmotivated to participate in willingly.

      Collegiate varsity athlete and double major :)

  • Edward Denny

    as a former NCAA I swimmer and current NCAA swim coach, whenever I’d go and watch my son’s high school meet, others would invariably ask me how I though he did. Know that my son was not the most talented athlete on the team but he enjoyed the practices, his teammates, etc. My answer was always the same, “are you asking me as his father or are you asking me as a coach because it is two completely different answers. I’m here as a father and I think he did great.”

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      That is awesome, Edward. Thank you for sharing. It is great to hear you can make that separation.

  • Jimman1018

    How do you handle the situation when you know you child has more potential than they are showing and the coach does nothing to help improve his skills.

  • Jessica

    I couldn’t agree more. One of the reasons I grew to hate sports was that my mother was constantly playing backup coach. Before every practice or game it was “now remember to do this, remember to do that like we talked about, don’t forget to do what I said after the last game.” After every game, it was “you should have done this, next time do this, why did you do that”. I grew to dread sports of any kind because I was never going to be the star basketball/softball/tennis/track/whatever athlete that mom dreamed of owning, and it seemed like the harder I tried to please her, the worse I got. Finally told her to get a dog and teach it tricks and leave me the hell alone.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      I am very sorry to hear that, Jessica. I hope that you can take what didn’t work for you and learn from it to benefit your children.

  • Anon

    Kind of difficult to say those words if your child is riding the pine wouldn’t you say?

  • Pingback: Excellent Writing About Parent Involvement | SportCaféSportCafé

  • http://www.leadwithacceptance.com/ Nancy Rose

    Thank you for putting it so eloquently. I just licensed a New Yorker cartoon to include in my book that is similarly spot-on.

    Cheerleaders perform for spectators in stands:

    “Hang your fading hopes and dreams on your children’s high-school
    teams!”

    – Issue Publication Date: 10/07/2002

  • Pingback: What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform | christostriathlon1

  • TexasAthleteCoach

    As a coach for 13 years at developmental, elite club, and NCAA levels, this is spot on. There’s nothing more wonderful than a supportive parent, and nothing more obnoxious than an over-involved one who thinks they are merely supportive. That said, the over-involved parent can still be a strong and loyal ally, liaison, and family coordinator depending on how the coach builds rapport with them. This rapport also makes it much easier to tell the parent to chill out when they are being ridiculous.

    Parents provide critical insights into the out-of-arena life that creates a complete student-athlete. We as coaches aren’t always right, but it’s often the case that we know the feedback and motivation mechanisms of our athletes better than their parents do. And when to vary those depending on effort / performance — and the preparation leading to it. Athletes at all levels need support from home. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Athletes get performance feedback from their body, teammates, coach, medical staff, video, and sometimes the media. To add a voice that is often as uninformed as it is influential adds great confusion – and a fear of disappointment to the parent. Parents rarely recognize that this fear creates a pressure so powerful it can undo all the other preparations made by an athlete. For this reason, the voice of performance evaluation and guidance should come ONLY from the coach.

    My major gripe with this article is the uncredited (stock?) photo. C’mon Tim, it’s an article about healthy parenting. Sport sculpts beautiful bodies, but a sideline photo of parents cheering at a little league soccer game would have been much more appropriate here.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      I am so very sorry about the image. That was certainly not our intention. We’ve changed that image immediately. Thank you for letting me know and sharing your thoughts!

      • TexasAthleteCoach

        No apologies needed, Tim, but VERY well done on finding an image more in line with your message. It’s a complete package now – flawless in delivery.

        You’ve hit a home run with this piece and your wisdom will inform parents at all levels for years. Outstanding.

        • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

          Thank you. I know you are very active on our blog, so that feedback is highly received.

  • Coach Rik

    I am golf swing and mental coach, I have worked with kids for over 35 years, I have also counseled kids and adults alike on life issues. I was always a very hands-on father with my kids and their friends. I too made mistakes with my children with their sports and endeavors and I was furious with myself afterward. It seems we are harder on our own children than on the other children we coach.Their mother and I divorced my boy was 8 and my girl was 6 And my house was generally full on weekends with them and their friends. I agree with Brown and Miller’s statement, my son smile was priceless when I told him that I love to watch him wakeboard. After the divorce I took up the philosophy for them to coach themselves for its their life and their mistakes to make. I have also read in “Failing Forward” of the great things we can say to our children when asking about their day, ” what mistakes did you make today that you learned from?” This article resonates with me for the biggest problem I have teaching golf to children is the parents. Let them have fun, that is what they will remember. It is our own selfishness, self-centeredness that is causing are so-called good intentions and we are protecting our own precious self-esteem with all the horrible advice we spew out!!! It is not the children that suffer later, it is the parents that will suffer when their little darlings move out on their own and then move to another city to escape the parents and their controlling suffocating micro managing.

  • Julia Havey

    my kids are both musicians, and while I am the proudest parent imaginable, at the end of the day, I am their mom and their #1 fan, but NOT their manager and have never taken a meeting on their behalf–other than with their manager when hiring him. Let coaches and those who’s job it is guide your talented children! Less stress and pressure on everyone!

  • Grammar Police

    “…and they got used to peddling a vehicle.”

    Unless the kids have been raised to be used-car salespersons, they got used to PEDALLING or PEDALING, not PEDDLING.

  • Andy

    Tim, great article. At what age level do u feel this applies? Clearly young athletes need parents to advocate for them and sometimes push and motivate them. So what is an appropriate age to start to “let go.”

  • Rose Mary Drake

    I think it’s a great article. Why did you choose to illustrate it with the photo of the young woman with her shorts down to within millimeters of her pubic area? I’m tired of the sexuality of women being used to sell …. everything.

    • Rose Mary Drake

      By the way, when it comes up on my Facebook page, her head doesn’t even show, just her torso.

      • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

        Thank you for letting me know, Rose! I am so very sorry about the image. That was certainly not our intention. We’ve changed that image immediately.

  • jody

    Well said! Being a student athlete I agree with all of this. My sister’s & I were lucky to have parents that did just this. We had very successful collegiate careers and have them to thank for their unconditional love and support!

  • Todd1966

    I am very glad I found this article. I will definitely put it to use in every sport or any event my son is involved in. I feel better now knowing a better way to be a sports dad. Thanks!

  • shawn

    If you don’t finish first, you finished last.

  • Sarah

    Nice article Tim! My kids were raised in one of the top 10 wealthiest counties in the nation (we were not at the top of that income bracket, either!) Their dad coached at a local high school for a time. My kids played travel sports for a time, before the competitiveness stole the joy in participating. We’ve seen it all concerning the parent involvement and their commitment levels displayed: Parents coming to coaches saying, “What do you mean my daughter isn’t good enough to make the varsity team? Do you realize how much money I’ve invested in travel and club ball over the years?!?” I love those six words you mentioned and what a difference it could make in the lives of American athletes of all ages! Thanks for the well-written words. :)

  • Pingback: Back-to-Sports Season - Busy Kids=Happy Mom

  • Mrs. E

    For almost 60 years our family has been involved in athletics – my husband coached a summer collegiate team & from our children’s first involvement to working with college age athletes, he always reminded them to “keep that little child in your back pocket” – in other words, go out & have fun as you did when you were playing sandlot baseball – also, respect the game, your teammates, coaches, opponents & officials – you are representing yourself, your family, your school & your community – make it a positive experience each time you step on the field or in the gym & be grateful for the opportunities you have been granted.

  • Amy Crandall

    This blog hit home for me. I realized about halfway through my daughter’s indoor soccer season that I was putting too much pressure on her. Trying to give advice during and after the game etc…

    I stopped giving advice and started giving only praise and encouragement. It was like a switch had been turned on. She started enjoying the game more and playing better. I’ve decided to leave the instruction to the person in charge of the team, the one I’ve entrusted my daughter’s advancement with… her coach.

    She’s happier and I’m happier. In the end all that matters is she’s having fun, learning things, and enjoying the sport of soccer.

  • no name

    geez…I really like the parenting in the 50s…parents weren’t so involved in their childrens day to day activities. Parents back then let their children fail and make mistakes. They learned to be independent and grew in maturity by fixing their own mistakes. Todays’ parents are SO intertwined in their children’s lives that they are not letting them learn from mistakes. It is pathetic that we have to have articles on the internet to teach parents what to say to their children before and after a sports event. Kids are so coddled nowadays that it will hurt them when they get older. So here is my advice to all those parents out there…..BACK OFF! Let your kids fail….allow them the opportunity to fix their mistakes. And for goodness sake quit being that annoying helicopter parent!

  • J

    I’d love to hear the author’s thoughts on how it works when the parent *is* the coach.

  • Coach

    Great Article, I believe to many parents live through their kids. I grew up playing soccer. My parents never came to watch or never took me to a practice or game. At first, I played in the local team which was a walking distance and down the line played little further away where i took a bus too. I never got pushed by anyone. I did fall in love with the game. I was quite pushy for myself. I wish my parents at least once in awhile they came to watch me. They read articles on papers and other people will talk to them about me, but they still never came. I pushed myself so hard that i even end up playing pro level. I enjoyed every minute of the game. Still to this day, I have lots of passion and love for the game. I asked them few years ago, why they did not get involved in my school or sports activity like other parents?
    They answered : First, We had to raise you to appreciate anything you do, value everything around you, value every person around you or beyond.
    School and Sports – We gave your the appropriate financial needs. We gave you the unconditional love. We let you grown on your own, make your own decisions of what you really want. You chose the team and coach that you wanted to play, and that’s why you worked extra hard. We never cared if you were first or second or third team. We wanted you to try your best and love the game on your own pace. Nobody in the world can perform to the highest every time they try something. There is good performance and bad performance. So, there was no need for us to step in regardless how your performance was because that was part of learning.

    Now, I coach youth competitive soccer and Scout players professionally. As a high level Coach, I believe the parents should support and be positive at all times. Also, I believe that you do not have to be at every little activity they do. Players need to learn to stand on their own. Let them fail, let them learn from their own mistakes. They will push them-self harder when they recognize their own mistakes. They will play the sport for them-self and not because you made them go play golf, soccer, basketball, football or whatever it is.
    Each kids grows differently. Some might be little serious at age 8-10 or 10-12 or whatever years. Points is – they all grown on their own pace. As coaches and parents we have to make sure they like the sports, they are having fun, they have a safe environment around them and they have the right resources. Not every kid will be a pro player. Not every kid will play college or high school. To most of them will be a fun activity for the rest of their life. Something they love to do on a weekend or week nights. A place to get their minds from their personal issues or everyday life.

  • Charlotte

    Release your children to THEIR game. If they excel, it is because they want to. If they play just enough to keep them off the bench, it is STILL their game. If they never leave the bench, it is what it is. Your child is still part of a team. As soon as you release them to the game, and ENJOY watching the successes, you will be a better spectator. Otherwise, stay in the car in the parking lot until game time is over.

  • lisaih

    This was a great article. I wish I had this advise sooner as my son just verbally committed to play golf at a D1 school on the West coast in 2014 with a scholarship. But it has been a tough and stressful 2 years. He has been competing the past 5 years and we have had many, many, many ups and downs. I realized that he did not want to hear any advice from his parents unless asked, only in the past couple years though. I decided that I would try to stay emotionless on the course during competition except at the end, then I would say something. His father, my ex, was way too involved and made many facial expressions on the golf course during competition and it frustrated me. I told him that he needed to remain emotionless on the course so he wouldn’t distract him but that always led to an argument. I couldn’t change him and my son said he always saw his facial expression which was a distraction. I realized that I needed to stay out of giving any type of “advise” during competition but I admit, I have slipped at times. The beginning of last year, we enlisted Fit Golf as his trainer in fitness and to also provide mental guidance to the game. I thought that would help and keep the parent aspect out of it but I couldn’t control his father. He has never had a golf coach during the past 5 years, so one of the most important thing I wanted in a college was a good coach that would help him grow and develop his game. Believe me, I won’t be calling the coach and telling them how to help my son. I am happy to pass the buck to them. I’ll be attending one college tournament a year and that would be the one in Hawaii…lol.

    During my time attending all these golf competitions, I have seen many parents flip out on their kids in front of everyone. It is such a shame to watch.

  • chuck g

    I’m very lucky. not only do I tell my daughter, “I love to see you play”…but other parents of kids on her soccer team also tell me, “I love to see your daughter play.” :)

  • Zadz

    Excellent. I’d go a step further and say those principles would apply in any aspect of life for parent and child. Kids can teach us a great deal. We should love them for that too!

  • Tami Dunnam

    Wonderful article Tim! Timely for me too. As my boys have grown up playing sports I’ve always just loved watching and cheering for them. Now, as I watch my oldest begin to play more competitively the desire to “help” him starts to creep in.

    A couple years ago one of his coaches asked his team to write 2 lists. One to list all the things they are afraid of and the other to list the things that they love most about playing baseball. At the next practice when they brought back their lists, he had them throw away all of the “afraid” lists without even discussing them. He said that those were things they could not control. Don’t worry about it. Worry about the next play. The next pitch. The next out. The 2nd list, the “love” list, he told them to hold on to it to remind them of why they love the game. My son shared his list with me and on it he had about 4 things. The only one I remember was, “I love it when I can hear my mom cheering for me.”

    I’ve officially decided that no matter what, that will be my role. Cheerleader. Yeah, I can handle that. :)

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Tami, That is such a great story and coach. Thank you for sharing!

  • madtownpopulist

    This article makes many good points but I do think there is a middle ground between the author’s “unconditional positive regard” approach and being an obnoxious, overbearing, sideline screamer.

    My son is a very competitive soccer player with collegiate ambitions. He pretty much plays year round. Some competitions are totally for fun (indoor, futsal) and then there are events where we wants to perform at a high level. I am generally at most of his games (fun or serious). And for the latter set, we have a little pre and post game routine. The pre-game is basically mental imaging–what does he want to accomplish in this game (making better passes, being quicker with the ball, playing stronger in traffic,etc.). Post game, we discuss how he thinks he did on those goals and what pointers or comments he got from the coach. If the game did not go so well, I will point out the plays that he did make and conversely, on his good games, we will talk about he could you build on the performance; i.e., what things could have you still done even better, etc? My one inviolate rule of thumb is to never contradict or question anything his coach says. And I never yell criticisms from the sidelines. I am a total cheerleader.

    In the off season, I go down to the park with him and we work on passing and shooting drills and we do conditioning work together (Sprints, agility ladder and the like). As I think about it, athletics is a big part of our relationship. Of course every kid is different. My son loves the game and his over riding goal in life is to be the best player he can be. I know he appreciates my involvement. If my only engagement took the form of “have fun and I love you,” I think he would find that to be an oddly disengaged stance.

    • TexasAthleteCoach

      I think the big consideration here would be whose idea the pre- or post-match routine and out-of-practice drills are. Kid = healthy, parent = unhealthy. To me, this sounds like an incredible opportunity to spend some quality time connecting over a shared interest. Good game!

  • Anon

    My son plays elite level premier league football and has done so since he was very young. Recently he played his first “professional” level game as an 18 year old. If you had of asked whether he would have made this level when he was 12 than answer would have been no. I have on far too may occasions seen the anxiety or parents ruin talented kids out of there chosen sports. Valuing the result so much more than the work rate and effort afforded. My son, initially was never the most naturally gifted, but wanted it more than anyone so worked twice as hard. We celebrated the work ethic, something most sports parents overlook. Effort in = reward out.

  • nick

    I wonder if Earl Woods told Tiger this crap. I wonder if LeBrons mom said it. This is the problem with kids today…Participation trophies

  • debra

    This is so sad that parents go to this extent for something that in the long run does not really matter. (Other than their character development). It is called losing perspective.

  • http://www.fencing.net/ Craig

    We follow this advice for our kids. Each spring the coaches send out an email to this effect to all of the parents in their Little League.

    Even before that, my oldest told us what he did and did not want us saying during and after games. It’s made our weekends much more enjoyable and puts less stress on the kids so they can just have fun.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Craig, that is such a great way to help parents. Thank you for sharing!

  • Lynda

    I was not good at sports at all – I was a fat child and a clumsy one – and when I ran I used to knock my knees together and trip myself up. My teammates would laugh at me, but my coach never did. AND NEITHER DID MY PARENTS!!!! They just told me to do the best I could and to have fun – and if I didn’t run very well, that was ok – they still loved me. I think that Contey67 needs to lighten up and take your advice – tell her child to do her best, to have fun, and ‘I love you’. That last is most important. I always knew that even if I fell halfway, my folks still loved me – and THAT is what made me want to get up and finish whatever I was doing. This gal (Contey67) had better be careful, or her child will grow up resenting her and drawing away from her – and feeling she is not ever good enough for her mother.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thank you so much for sharing, Lynda. “I love you” is so powerful of a statement. Your story is such an encouragement to all of us.

  • Dick McLamore

    I think the child pedaled the tricycle, not peddled it. If I’m wrong, I hope he got a good price.

  • Corey

    Couldn’t agree more with this. We currently exercise this with a select baseball program I coach for. It’s very difficult for some parents, but the kids appreciate it almost as much as the parents do, for trusting us to do the coaching. It has created a great environment filled with positive reinforcement by the parents, while letting the coaches do the coaching.

  • AaronE

    As I think back to the years that I was a student athlete, I remember two people who’s approval meant the most to me as an athlete, my father and my uncle. Both of them would go to every game and be right down on the side-line cheering me on. Now both of them have big loud voices and even over the cheers of the crowd, and the hits and grunts on the field I could still hear the words of encouragement from them. It was always “Way to go.” or “Good job” when I made a great play. On the other hand it was “Shake it off” or “You’ll get him next time.” when I messed up, and those words meant the world to me and made me play harder and better. As I am now a father of two great kids now, one who is a college student and the other still in grammar school and is heavily involved in dance and performing. I find myself doing the same thing for them. A lesson that I learned from two great role models in my life..

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Aaron, That is so encouraging to read that your father and uncle has positively impacted your children’s lives. Thank you for sharing.

  • Doug A

    Quit living through your kids. Its their life, and it’s just sports. Sports are so overblown nowadays it makes me sick. Especially in areas with money.

  • Axxis

    Good post and advice but that’s not exactly the best way to teach your kids to ride a bicycle…

  • m

    Pedaling a vehicle… NOT PEDDLING. Unless they’re selling it, the word is pedaling!

  • Jay

    I’ve coached all my kids in sports, often being too hard on them in the process. I have concluded that it is best to just encourage, period. Negative talk puts too much pressure on an already high pressured kid. If they want your advice, they’ll ask, and just give a simple reply. If they are driven to excel, they’ll do what it takes to make that happen. All this will do wonders for your relationship, too. Smile a lot, and dole out the love. Gently hold them accountable . To you mothers and fathers out there who have the ever serious look, pacing the sidelines and yelling out instruction…I’ve been there, and you look ridiculous.

  • BarrysHypocrisy

    This article doesn’t address what you should do when the coach is the problem. It places all of the blame on the parents (and most of the time it is the parents), BUT many times the coach is to blame. Encouraging and supporting your child doesn’t make up for poor coaching.

    When the coach continually makes bad decisions and then sticks by those bad decisions to the detriment of the team, then there is a serious problem. And many times, speaking to the coach will only have a negative impact on your child.

    I’m all for positive encouragement for the kids, but it can’t make up for poor coaches.

    • Coaches wife

      Dear Barry,

      I have played sports all my life. I have now been involved with Coaching and being a Coaches wife and having my kids play competitive sports and compete on-stage for roles also. My opinion that this is the Coaches fault? VERY RARE. I would examine yourself much more critically than what you are doing. The GREAT majority of coaches that I know are trying to do the BEST job they can… your lack of support only hurts the program and MOST importantly YOUR KIDS. Teach your kids to respect the coach. If they are not getting the playing time that you “think” they deserve then instead of helping your child to be a victim, ask your child what they are doing to improve their game. Ask the Coach “What can my son/daughter do to improve their game?”

      Sports is only a small part of life, how we teach our kids to respect those in authority over us only HELPS them in the “big bad world” after high school and college. Not every job your kid gets will they be “the star player” they will have to work and listen to those in authority over them in their job, or guess what? They will lose their job.
      We are doing extreme damage to the future of our country by the way we are raising our kids to always think it is the “Coaches” fault.

      If it “truly” is the “coaches” fault then go to the person over them. If the administration backs the coach, then again, I would say guess what? This is your issue and you do not see this clearly nor correctly. If the “system” is all that bad…then don’t have your kids compete.

      So in closing, what I am saying is, you would truly get so much further if you supported the coach and taught your kids to respect the adults in their life. This is a win-win situation.

      • BarrysHypocrisy

        I find it extremely amusing that you have not idea about the situation that I am referring to, but completely absolve the coach in question from all blame and instead place the blame on me. I guess (in your opinion), all coaches are perfect and are incapable of making bad decisions. And then you have the gall to blame the children and tell them that if they don’t like it “then don’t compete”. It’s astounding to me that your whole post talks about respect, yet you show so little respect for the kids. All the “hard work” in the world can’t make up for poor coaching because the kids can’t make decisions regarding the teams that they are on.

        If I so chose, I could give you the names of close to 100 families who have been negatively impacted by the coach in question over the past 30 years. But, I doubt that I could change your mind since you seem intent on blaming everyone else except the coaches.

        Your adverse reaction to my post makes me believe that you are making excuses for poor coaching because maybe you have first hand experience with it.

        • TexasAthleteCoach

          Hey Barry,

          You’re right – there are problem coaches out there. But to your point, the article doesn’t fail to address problem coaches. This piece isn’t about problems in sport, or problem coaches, or who’s ultimately responsible for athlete performance, or the best way to optimize it – it’s about what parents should say to kids as they perform. And, from the kids themselves, that message is clear: WHATEVER happens, support your kid.

          Now, to directly address your criticism, good coaching isn’t always about the x’s and o’s – it’s about building good, healthy people through the social environment of sport AND capitalizing on those rare opportunities we get to develop an athlete where talent and work ethic collide.

          You will get no disagreement from me that there are problem coaches out there. I had the misfortune to work alongside one of the worst. But you will also get no sympathy from me. Sport is a life embellishment, not a life replacement (for your child athlete or for you).

          So come out of the red zone and put the energy you’re wasting on being frustrated (I guarantee you the coach doesn’t care) into a creative solution for your situation. Life’s too short to be so upset; if it’s that bad for you and/or your kid, change teams, get an apartment and enroll your kid near a coach is who is more in line with your needs. But I think your best first step would be to have a meeting with your current coach – not to talk, but to ask/listen. “Why?” is one of the most powerful questions that is never asked.

          • BarrysHypocrisy

            TexasAthleteCoach – I appreciate your post and am glad that you were at least reasonable and didn’t deny the fact that there are bad coaches out there and just place blame on all parents like the other delusional poster did. All of the other coaches my daughter had during high school were wonderful and taught her life lessons that will benefit her forever. We are grateful for the positive impact they had on her.

            My daughter is done with the coach in question, so the coaches poor judgement and performance is a mute point to me now. We did speak with the coach in question (going against advice from former players and parents) and all that happened was punishment and less playing time for my daughter through no fault of her own. The coach, through cronyism and “the good old boys network” will be a coach as long as she chooses regardless of what a terrible job she does. When other coaches in our conference are asked about her, the standard response is “we don’t worry about that team as long as she is the coach because she will always make bad decisions and waste the potential of her players”.

            I am in full agreement that positive reinforcement is the only way to go. It may sound kind of naive, but the phrase “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” is something that we endlessly preached to her. We knew that she was never going to play past high school and were totally OK with that. She is a better person because of having been coached by the good coaches and it is too bad that one sport was ruined by a bad coach.

          • TexasAthleteCoach

            Barry – thanks for a thoughtful reply. Sounds like you weathered the problem coach as well as you could have given the circumstances. You do have my sympathy for a daughter whose experiences with a problem coach ultimately ruined her experiences with a sport – whatever it was.

            Politics can be delicate, especially since coaches are often locked to schools or clubs that make jumping to a more accommodating situation impossible. I’m a believer that we always have options, but sometimes it just isn’t worth the trouble.

            Despite bad role modeling on the part of the coach, I commend your “home coaching” of your daughter to fill the gap in helping her grow. She’s a better, tougher person for the experience. It is too bad that she couldn’t enjoy that experience more though.

  • Pingback: What We Should Say When Our Kids Perform | Little Athletes Fitness Fun

  • Pingback: What we should say to our “child athletes” | Little Athletes Fitness Fun

  • Pingback: What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform – Tim Elmore | Mentone Mif

  • mike

    what if youre coach, agent, and everything is your parent?

  • Pingback: Parenting II | Our Piep Show

  • linmom3

    What an awesome article and so true. It could also be added that parents need to watch what they say in the stands. Some parents feel they know all when it comes to a game and have no problem “correcting” other people children, while they are playing no less. My daughter has been the received of some harsh comments from parents like this. All it does is diminish confidence, causing more mistakes. If you as a parent possess so much knowledge about a sport, perhaps you should be coaching.

  • Coach T

    I have coached youth sports for the past 7 or 8 years. During this time I have come to understand that coaching the “Bobby Knight” way doesn’t get the most out of your team. That being said, being a “Bobby Knight” to your child before, during or after a game won’t have a good impact either. I have seen how children react to their parents yelling or trying to coach them during or after a game and how these same children loose a love for the sport they are playing.
    I have always coached younger kids all as equals. I try to give them equal playing time so as they grow and excel in their sport, they can decide on their own if that sport is for them. I have only had a handful of parents call or email over the years to ask why there child isn’t getting more playing time. Sometimes there child may be the best player on the team and a parent wants to know why he isn’t in the whole game.
    Its all about having the child feel like he or she is a part of the team and is fully supported by his or hers parents and coaches.
    They will have the rest of their lives to be judged and lectured, just let them enjoy there childhood.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thank you so much for sharing, Coach T. It is an encouragement to read your comment.

  • JL

    My ah ha moment came a few years ago. I have a 6th grader and a 8th grader. Both in sports with National standings. Once I realized that they are harder on themselves than I could ever be..I backed off. Lets face it….It is not like they set out to play a bad game….It happens….they know, because of the hard work and coaching they have had, exactly what they have done wrong. It is up to them to come back and fix it. With that being said…be very careful who you choose to coach your child. I was a professional dancer and I know it is the correct fundamentals that you learn from the beginning that can determine your success later. After all…it is always easier to make a habit than to break one. It is however easier to break down a child than to build one up… It is simple…Trust them and their integrity in school and sports and put them in situations with coaches and teachers that foster that. I drive 45miles out of my area for my youngest to be with a coach in basketball that fits that bill…. Worth every mile, and I live in a big city! #hopingforthebest #providingopprotunity #trustingmychild

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Such great points, JL. Thank you for sharing!

  • Stan

    If you don’t criticize you are not being a parent. You are being a fool. Don’t trust the coach. He has an agenda. Bet not many if any of the parents that agree with this have a child that made the big time. Oh, I love my child. He tried so hard. Boo hOO hoo…….

    • Just a Father

      I do hope this is a joke!

    • JL

      Sorry your child had not had the opprotunity of quality coaching. Mine has. No agenda. I pay a bit more, and these coaches fund kids with good attitudes, grades and parents, but all of their coaches have been professionals in their sports and have no kids on the team or agenda other than making my kid the best he can be. If in fact if choose to be in rec league situations I choose the parent coach carefully. And by the way…..Many of the kids from these programs have made the “big time” after earning full scholarships to college. Try and get out of your klds way and you wont be so bitter! Your approach is sad!!!! Don’t get me wrong….I expect a lot from my kids,,,but they expect more from themselves. I don’t have children that need bullying constantly! And another thing…. No Booo Hooo here. They are told that they have to earn their spots in life….If they are not putting in the effort it is on them…

  • http://MaximizingMarriage.com/ Sebs | MaximizingMarriage.com

    Thanks for sharing these insights. Hope to remember these when my sons grow up…

  • tracie

    As a competitive athlete with a 12-year-old daughter, I have struggled to maintain perspective when watching her play sports. Then one day something occurred to me. Either she will be really good, or she won’t, and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. That was incredibly liberating. Now I take great joy in watching her compete. We, as parents, can provide opportunities and encouragement, but we need to leave the rest to the coaches. Your kids will thank you for it.

  • Pingback: My Little Man’s Piano Recital 2013 | Kara's Musings

  • Glen Snider

    Nobody wants to see an “ugly parent”. We want to see the kids play to the best of their ability. If they can do better, they’ll get “the message” from their coach or their teammates.

  • Pingback: Colorful Weekend

  • DD

    agree. two caveats.

    1. when a kid underperforms and parents praise performance, the kids lose trust in the parents honesty/competence in discussing sports. ask the kids – they’ll tell you this. praise the effort. praise the tenacity. praise the determination. those are controllable factors that drive success in sports and beyond.

    2. coaches, by and large, are godawful about handling injuries and communicating with parents. the baseline is so poor that the average parent is forced to be more proactive than they want to be. I detest contacting coaches, but i will not allow them to put my recently injured kid back into inappropriate training or play too soon and it happens all the time. Mine are teenagers and they want to compete and need a trainer or coach to tell them “not yet.” Look at the professional athletes – they always want to come back too soon. my experience is with multiple sports in HS and several clubs none football – and just as bad with girls as boys. I don;t believe it is intentional, but that is irrelevant.

  • Pingback: What message are we sending our kids about their performances? | Mr. Aldrich

  • Robert Howard

    As a father of two daughters who each played four years at the college level and as a junior Olympic and high school coach I agree. The only thing I would add is that if you sincerely believe it —- at the right times you should thank the coach for their hard work and dedication. I have never seen a coach not humbled by that compliment especially when your daughter or son’s name is not mentioned.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      That is very true, Robert. Thank you for sharing that. Giving appreciation is so valuable and always a need.

  • Pingback: Great article on parent involvement with student athletes

  • David

    I’m a middle school volleyball coach. For the most part I have pretty good parents. There are always exceptions and they are usually very hard to deal with. I coach at a small parochial school where I am slowly managing to instill the culture that we are a developmental program and that teaching and learning to play the game will always come before winning. I have managed to do this by holding parent meetings every season to go over what they should expect from me and what I expect from them. Then I take every opportunity I get while chit-chatting with parents before and after practices to refresh those ideas in order to try and keep them on message.

    I try and keep the messages simple (but the explanations and details can get complicated):

    1. We are a developmental program. Winning is on our priority list, but it is number 7 of 7 on that list.
    2. Be their parents, not their coach.
    3. Be their greatest fan.
    4. Never pass up a chance to watch your kid practice or play.
    5. Never forget that sometimes they are just little girls playing a game. On those occasions – just let them play.
    6. Mistakes are part of the game. If I didn’t think a mistake your kid made was worth commenting on, then you should let it go also.
    7. Learning to play volleyball should be a journey for your child. It is a journey that may last anywhere from one season, to the rest of her life. Help her embrace and enjoy the journey, give her the time she needs to take her journey, go on her journey beside her – neither leading or pushing.

    Of course, first and foremost I had to get buy-in for this from the school. It took them a few years to come around, but the principal is with me 100% now. We do not have tryouts for our teams. Any middle school girl that wants to play – is put onto a team. And I play every girl on the team.

    This seems to be working. Of course it helps that we do win a lot of games. And my success rate of girls moving on from my program and getting to play in high school is around 90% over the last 8 years. But it is a constant struggle. Even the calmest, most on-board parent occasionally starts acting like an afternoon’s match is game five of the Olympics gold medal match…

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Great insight David! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it is encouraging to hear the way you approach team dynamics between the athletes, coaches, and parents. I appreciate your leadership!

  • Jim Hooper

    Great timing, both my freshman twin daughters made high school volleyball squads. Quagmire, one made JV the other Freshman/ sophomore . I am a strength coach and they had first workout today. Glad a decided to not peek in. I want to trust that remember the things I have taught them like when the track coach wanted my trackster to swing above her ala xfit and she did hard style swings. That made me very proud of her, trusting they know right from wrong.
    Hopefully when peers try to influence them they will again no how to say no thank you. Trust goes a long way

  • coach mikeyg

    I have coached for over 30 years from K to College. Only twice in all those years did I have a parent complain. The first was a father that showed up at half time, his daughter had played most of the first half of soccer and was a sub for the second half. He wanted to know why his daughter didn’t get to play much and that it was his time to watch her. I responded to him that she played all of the first half. I never heard or saw him again at a game. The second was just this last season, the mother wanted to know why her daughter wasn’t getting to start the game, two reasons we’ve only played one game, not everyone can start. Two your told me she was afraid to start. Parents need to listen to their child more often they are letting you know if they like to play if they happy with their ability. Some are hungry to improve, some are satisfied with not being the next Mia Hamm.

  • Kevin

    I really liked this article. While our children are their own individuals, sometimes it seems like for many parents, they are extensions of themselves. There is a sense of personal pride when they do well and parent’s egos swell just bit. Most of the pitfalls in this piece are because it’s just hard to let go. I think most parents mean well even in criticism. We just have to remember that we are not getting a parent coach award, that it’s not about us, but about them. Mindfulness going to events will help us get perspective and control. At least, that’s what this piece does or me. First game is soon. I think I will try these out and just throw out an criticism.

  • bethkfarmer

    OK, I get that some parents take it overboard, but you know who those parents are? The ones who are either both mother and father to that kid and want to make sure their kid isn’t feeling neglected or not getting the full attention of the coach and themselves because they screwed up and didn’t provide a two-parent home, or they are the parent who didn’t have parents that showed up to ANYTHING they did growing up. I fall into both of those categories, and it was really hard NOT to call coaches, or put stress on my kid. Thank God I am a shrink and could hold back and saw my motivations. But I’d rather have a kid that got TOO much attention from me than one who got NO support from their parents. If I hadn’t showed up to matches, meets, competitions, she would have had NO ONE! Her dad was worthless, wouldn’t even pick her up from a practice (he lived two miles from her school), so I had to do EVERYTHING! So the next time you bitch about parents being too attentive, cut them some slack, they are just trying to do better than their parents did for them!

  • MJ Marcks

    This is great advice for parents, and not exclusive to sports.
    Seen it in plenty of other activities as well. Academic, music, theater, dance.
    Even was guilty of it at one point in time, and had to reevaluate my intentions.
    Wonder how we’d feel having our kids critique us and our parenting on a regular basis.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Great thought MJ! You are so right, we see this trend happening in many areas besides sports. Thanks for your comment.

  • Alice

    This is great advice. My children are all out of high school and all were involved in various sports. I wish I had read this many years ago. I considered myself a very “evolved”, supportive parent, but after reading this I realize that I could have been better. I shared it on my FB page for those going through these times right now. Thank you.

  • ProudMom

    Wow! I’m just grateful that I somehow managed to get this right, even though there is no manual out there for parents who are trying to find the balance between encouraging an athlete who has the potential to play at the collegiate (and beyond) level and being too pushy.
    Perhaps it was because my now ex-husband had the jerk factor covered, but I focused on the positives and attempted to encourage my children to enjoy the fact that they were blessed with natural athletic ability and had the opportuny to play at such competitive levels. I have actually uttered the very words that this article suggests–I love to watch you play–because it was completely and utterly true.
    I always hoped that I could balance out the negativity and criticism–it was so bad at times that my children’s school considered banning him from school activities. This articles gives me some hope that perhaps I did.

  • Pingback: What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform | Wilton High School Track & Field/XC

  • deek

    My dad, by being involved just enough, was crucial in getting me a full athletic scholarship to Stanford University. I’m happy he cared. I will also care when it come to my children.

  • Laxmom

    The only words I have ever said to a coach were thank you. And I do it after every game, win or lose.

  • Pingback: Thursday 8.29.13 WOD | Iron Resolve CrossFit

  • e.eubank

    It’s not all about winning….I would rather see my daughter lose and have fun with the girls that she has gotten to know and become friends with instead of winning every game and be snobby and arrogant…. the first thing kids need to learn is, just because you WIN the game doesn’t mean that you really did….its about learning and being friends, working together and having fun…I’ve coach for years and would much rather lose a game or tournament as long as my kids had fun and gave it everything they had…when your on a winning team ALL the time you get use to it and when the BOMB drops…you don’t know how to lose and have FUN….it will take that scenario to happen before most kids will get it because of the parents…its part of LIFE, you win some you lose some or another easy come easy go…the best thing is you need to be thankful you have had kids that take interest and try and do there best and are able to because there are parents that having had that option….WIN or LOSE its always been about having FUN!

  • teachermomva

    Happy that my parents were my cheerleaders! I also think it is important for your children to see you praise other members on the team. Team effort! I am proud to say after each game I always tell my son that my most favorite thing is to watch him play! :) Great article.

  • Nicole

    We would like to share this great article on our swim team’s website as a resource for our parents to read. What is your policy and preference for sharing your articles? This is a great one!

  • Mike Garofoli

    I was writing a friend about this subject and he referred me to your web site.

    I grew up the son of a professional coach-teacher, participated in sports from a youth through college and have made a career in Sports Management. and Coaching.

    Parents and the way they raise children are a big problem that carries into other areas in our society. It all starts with Youth Sports agree that Whatever models are formally being used by organizers and parents are way out of sync with what the objectives should be. Parents are the primary problem for the dysfunction for a bunch of reasons. The biggest being parents perverse need to provide hyper formal structure and their overbearing desire to control every aspect of their children’s lives.

    I call it the “Play-date Syndrome.” For some reason a whole generation decided it was a good idea to alter the evolutionary path of parenthood and inserted themselves way too deep into the process. People have been raising children for a real long time and managed to get the job done without all the complications we have now.

    Youth Sports over-organized and over-patronized and I believe there is way too much attention and time placed on the whole formality of youth sports activity including training. Everything involved is oversize and results in a whole bunch of problems for both individuals and the greater society as a whole.

    Many parents are overreaching by hiring personal trainers to manage their kids at too early an age.Most young kids need simple guidance when it comes to training at an early age. The activity should basically be the training tool at the younger ages. Kids should be allowed to learn and develop naturally as they grow – Then as they do grow more specific and intensive physical training can be introduced.

    Of course that all changes if a parent’s goal is trying to build a future professional athlete. In that case reasonable thinking goes right out the window and the facts show that it is more unlikely to happen if it is a goal that is too pronounced and introduced too early. As you well know – in all instruction and
    training there are thresholds to observe and steps to take. Pretty sure that is
    or used to be a basic accepted philosophy. I will make a guess that you may
    agree with that in general.

    That’s the way I believe sports should be managed as well. I’ve been working and counseling youth basketball programs for many years. The parental influence there is pretty dramatic when it comes to formatting a program because there are so many moving parts. It’s fast passed and mufti-dimensional requiring a lot of individual skill development in order to learn the team game. Some parents expect their little Bobbie or Sussie – whether they have the skills or not – to walk on to a court and play TV basketball. That’s not an effective way to teach.

    Sport should be taught in stages then the games or contest can be introduced as kids learn. I’ve been in many situations where 4-5 year olds don’t have the strength or skills to play in a game with rules so you suspend the rules. If a kid can’t do something like dribble a ball repeatedly and consistently – no need to enforce traveling rules. Kids will then get the chance to learn as they fumble through the activity.

    I’ve had to put in great efforts trying to get results oriented parents to understand that concept. They understand that sport equals contest and that means they keep score. All some parents want to know is what the score was and whether their kid won or lost the game that they are trying to learn. I’m not sure why the results are important when – win or lose – they’re going to shower their kid with praise. Then they pin a medal on his chest after they make the trip to McDonalds. And they all think the need to over reward so he won’t develop self-esteem issues.

    Youth sports wasn’t always this way. It used to be an activity that helped kids find their way in the growing-up process by providing some exposure to natural healthy physical and social development. Kids have way too much structured sport or athletic activity in their lives.

    I want to finish with this. This past year I learned something about a local girl who was a record breaking all-star hoop player. She graduated from High School near the top of her class and went to college but wasn’t sure she could compete at that level so she didn’t try out. But she loves hoop. She’s a little gal who scored tons of points during her career but because of her size she might have a problem at the higher level.

    I found out that from an early age she was consumed by soccer and was one of the best in the area. She was getting national attention as a youngster because of her talent and was projected to be able to play at the high college level. She ended up giving it up before she even reached high school because by that time she had already been playing for about ten years in uber-structure of Youth Soccer and got tired of the grind. That’s really sad.

    There is a new phenomenon that has occurred and is being examined and has an obvious and direct association with the overkill our most recent generation has experienced growing up in the reformatted “everybody gets a trophy” world. Many new young adults are having problems functioning in reality.

    I saw a dramatic report recently on 60 Minutes that detailed the adult problems faced by individuals and employers due to the way the generation was raised with having too much entitlement and being overly structured. Employers are faced with a new type of human that doesn’t know how to live and work under traditional rules. Industry has resorted to hiring management firms that now specialize in bridging the cultural dived. They are basically the new “generation whatever” interpreters who try to help business leaders understand what make them tick how to makes them function productively.

    The plain and simple is – many little Johnnys and Suzies can’t make it through a work day without play breaks and rewards because of the way they have been conditioned. More troubling and funny at the same time is – even though these kids have grown up and entered independent adult lives parents still expect to have the control buttons. Business leaders now have to deal with not only the employees who are having issues adapting they also have parents who think they should be intimately involved in their work lives as well – like having input on their kids professional evaluations. That’s a bib problem,

  • J

    At what age would you recommend going from supervisor to consultant?

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      The move should probably be a slow one over time, during the teen years and certainly completed in college. My two cents.

  • David Elmore

    First, let me say I’m not related to the author of this page. I agree with most of what Mr. Elmore says, but the primary thing to consider with children is the proper perspective, and that will keep you respectful and loving. That perspective is this: They have a right to run their own lives, just like adults do. If a child is taking a sport voluntarily, he/she doesn’t need “emotional support” or, perhaps, even consulting — unless they show a direct need for either. It is condescending to children to think you have to “support” them. My 10 YO daughter does gymnastics competitions, plays competitive chess and more. The only thing I say to her before she goes out for competition is what I say to my best friends: “Have fun!” This article is right when it recommends the same thing. But my perspective when saying fun isn’t one of “support.” It is simply the sharing of enjoyment. And that sets her free, as it does me when someone tells me the same thing before an important occasion.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Good thought David. Makes sense. I do, however, believe when kids are younger, they still need an authority figure in their life to communicate they are proud of them. As kids grow, they certainly develop their identity and can run their own lives, but it happens over time. It’s a balance of support and letting go, isn’t it?

      • David Elmore

        Hey Tim. I don’t think a good parent ever “let’s go,” because that parent never took charge as an authority figure at all. I see parenting as loving guardianship, with an understanding that children are their own authority figures with complete hegemony. I’ve never tried to control my daughter, so I therefore have never blown up at her, because i understand that she sets her own goals and timelines for achieving her goals. BTW, they have their own identity from about the age of two, and then simply refine that as the years pass. Thanks.

  • youthcoach22903

    I applaud your message. (Hope you don’t mind me pointing out these suggestions….)

    1. Instead of “I love watching you play” which is about the parent’s feelings (I,I, I) …. how about, “YOU looked like you were having so much fun!” (you, you, you)
    Who wants their child to play in order to please a parent?

    2. Children can perform to develop their own sense of pride – instead of making their parents proud. “You must be so proud” is about the child. “I am so proud of you” is (again) making it about the parent.

    Coaching at the youth level is often a thankless job. I wish parents could understand that coaches and officials aren’t paid less than minimum wage to coach &/or referee. They do it because they love the sport. Who will want these jobs when the parents are so difficult and demanding?

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Great thoughts, great ideas. Thanks for sharing them. I totally agree with your direction.

  • Pingback: What Parents Should Say as their kids perform--Good Article

  • JoAnn Jordan

    Great tips whether you have an athlete or a musician. My other tip for musicians is to ask what their favorite musical moment was.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      That is a great question for musicians. Thank you for sharing, JoAnn!

  • Captain Steve

    i coached most of the teams my son played on. he’s happy and successful today. i partly agree, but significantly disagree as well. it’s great advice if your goal as a parent is ONLY to raise a happy unsuccessful underachiever that competes only for a “participation trophy.” but if you want to raise a kids to learn to achieve and succeed, you must push them more (no, not crazy pushing). no child with a parent following this advice will ever win a gold medal. anyone thinking winning is bad should follow this advice. the trick is to encourage a kid to kid to give their “reasonable best,” learn the joy of achievement, yet still feel good about themselves if they don’t win.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I don’t believe what I said contradicts what you are saying. However, my experience with thousands of parents each year tells me far too many are living out their unlived life through their child. Of course we need to push them to excel. But because that often happens with the coach (as you said you were) I believe the child doesn’t need even more coaches, often who are sending multiple messages. If you believe I am against motivating kids to be there best…you don’t know me (us) very well.

      • Captain Steve

        tim . .thx. given the extent of your platform compared to mine on this issue, it is very pleasing to know you fundamentally agree, and do encourage excellence. most extremes are a problem. seems like you’re looking for the sweet spot in the middle. best wishes in that.

        • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

          I agree and I do aim for that “sweet spot”. Thank you for the discussion!

  • Pingback: MartialGym and more

  • Hugh Jorgan

    Sounds like this is what you tell a kid of does not have a self driven competitive spirit. My kid does not want fluff – he/she wants an honest assessment. Title should be “What Parents Should Say If Their Kid is a Pussy”

  • Pingback: Being a Sports Parent Today |

  • Pingback: Elbows, Nose, Window

  • sea-libtard

    I like how the article predominately focuses on the mother.

  • alcman

    test

  • alcman

    I am of the opinion that nobody knows the answer. However, I think that as a parent one must push them as mush as we can. Unfortunately, we live in a world where some people have been mixing themselves with the strongest and the smartest, will refer to these as the “one percenters”, many of them are able to survive merely on genetics and context, they do not have to work too hard to “marry well” and have access to exceptional educational and social resources. They are product of generations of good decisions, if you will. They are the leaders in the institutions, they drive the world policy.
    This leaves the rest of us with a philosophical and existential dilemma. To aim for the top or to live a life as vulnerable followers at the mercy of the stronger groups.
    I think that for those parents that feel comfortable and safe where they are in society, it might seem a little foreign when others work hard to overcome the realities of the world. I applaud those parents for being able to accept their position and be happy with it.
    On the other hand, there are those that do not accept and never will, to be told what to do, nor to be controlled, nor to be bossed off, nor will ever accept that there are some people better than others and will fight, within the boundaries of legality and civility, with all their strength to overcome the “status quo”, not with the objective to diminish others but with the sole objective of bettering themselves.
    Some kids will not understand, probably because one of their parents does not espouse these thoughts or maybe because the child exists in an environment where people have already given up. Some parents will go overboard and damage their parent-child relationship, however, I think that with the right balance the best approach is by all means to train our children for the real world they will face. This of course means to push as hard as possible to exploit the child’s full potential.
    Nothing new here, it’s just a matter of going through a few National Geographic videos of parents training their young ones to face the world and watch them either training them how to hunt, scavenge or to make nests and fly as soon as they are capable of the most basic body motions.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      It really is a simple concept isn’t it? We tend to overcomplicate matters. I believe a key tool to raising our kids is support and letting go.

  • Pingback: What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform – Tim Elmore | The Pediatric Profiler ™

  • Pingback: From the Sidelines | Brandywine Buzz

  • Pingback: Supporting your child as an athlete | sun sets beach vb

  • M. N.

    Hi commentators!
    I have a question. How can I get my dad to stop asking me dumb questions after games like “What was the score?” and “How many baskets did you get?” and “Who do you think played the best?” and “What do you think you did bad?” after any b-ball/v-ball games (regular high-school) (whether won or lost) that he drives me home from, or asks me about when I get home. I just hate it that those are the only questions he asks and none that are about why I think I played how I did, or comments that help me feel better and encourage me, and give me more confidence after losing a game. Or any type of comment that feels more personal and caring than random “who cares anyways?” questions I don’t feel like answering mainly because my dad will just load on the advice and constructive criticism I really hate to hear. Especially from him. BTW he is 66 years old, thinks his advice is always golden, and believes that his daughter has like no feelings whatsoever and can handle constructive criticism like any guy friend he had growing up who played basketball with him when he was my age. Like he really blows my self-esteem, and pisses me off. Oh, and he might not even know what that means because he is an immigrant parent. And also, my dad thinks me being on a team means we will do well, because he thinks my team is like super pro and will get really good scores, when in reality my teams sometimes get beat by like 40 points in basketball, or 15 points in volley ball. I know my team is good, but sometimes we just don’t play the best we can, and it bums me out temporarily, and hearing “un-understanding of the situation” questions like those when he should be helping me feel better just makes me feel more bad about how I played. How can I get my dad to understand this and be more supporting of me? And he only comes to my games once in a while, like maybe twice in a season because he’s “too busy” or has other more important things to do, even though he’s already retired. And my mom is always at home (she’s a house-mom) cooking and cleaning and she doesn’t have time either. My older sis in university comes sometimes to cheer me on, but sometimes she’s very loud, and a little too cheery, and it would just be nice to have supporting parents. I dunno, I mean maybe I’m asking too much of my parents for their situation, but I just feel like my parents have never really been a part of my “real” life supporting me because they just don’t know how, or are too busy. BTW I have an older sister in university an older sister who’s disabled, and a younger sister who also does sports in high school. So maybe you can understand where some of the “too busy” comes from?.. Yeah, so writing this kinda bummed me out again, lol :), but any suggestions you guys have would really help! =)

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      I am sorry you feel this way. I encourage you to use these thoughts and present them to your parents in a loving approach. I have found that the phrase “I feel ______ when you do _______” is a good way to bring up difficult topics because you’re simply stating your feelings, and not accusing others for their actions. For me, I would hope that my kids would feel comfortable talking to me about what they need from me or if I’m neglecting them in some way. Communication will go a long way.

  • Pingback: Litteraturlista | Stockholms BDF

  • Craig

    This basically is Situational Leadership. I use this every day. With my employees and kids. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_leadership_theory

  • Pingback: Scozzie Squash | I love to watch you play…

  • Pingback: A Very Important Tip for ALL Parents! (On Speaking To Your Children)

  • Pingback: What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform – Tim Elmore | ProtegaText

  • Bob Bae

    Great advice! I coached my son in baseball for years and once he made his high school team i had to sit in the bleachers and keep my shut…even when I disagree with the coach. I have learned to let go and allow him to “own” his talent on the field. It’s his time and talent to steward and its a great opportunity for him to grow as a man and be less dependent on his parents.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thanks for sharing your experience Bob. Sounds like you’re doing a great job of supporting your son yet letting go at the same time. Thanks for being a great example!

  • Pingback: What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform | Spirit Post

  • Jessica Baker

    I think this is a great article. From a coaches standpoint, it’s great to see trust in a coaches ability and guidance. As a parent I hope I can find the happy medium in guiding my children with occasional advice but encouraging their abilities and supporting them through their successes and failures.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thank you for sharing, Jessica! You have quite the leg up as a parent since you understand the coach’s perspective.

  • Joanna

    Hi good day to all especially to Sir Tim Elmore, I would like to ask for a counsel about my son who is in taekwondo. He is in training for Almost
    two years now; he is the one who shows interest and told us that he wanted to enter into taekwondo, so I enrolled him. He is doing great you can see the passion and his love for the sport, he do extremely well he even skipped belt because of his good performance in his promotion, he is showing excellent
    performance too in his competition. But lately I can’t see anymore the passion
    he is showing prior, he is not as hunger as before. We do everything we can to support him provide advises, encouragements and techniques in his sparing and training session, after his training in school my husband even give time to train him also to be more skilled but as we observe he is not like before that have full of love and passion to his sport. He easily get hurt in sparing and training session unlike before he very courageous now you can see that he is scared of the opponent hardly throw kicks he can’t even beat a
    lower belt, unlike before that everyone is afraid of him because of how solid his kicked and techniques was. So we decided to speak to him about what we observed we told him if he really wanted it why he is showing lack of interest to the training he just nodding that he want it but we can’t see it in his action. We decided to discontinue his training for him to be aware if he is really for
    taekwondo. Do you think our decision is right? Please enlighten me, its
    breaking my heart to see that all he started will be going to nowhere. Thank
    you and more power to you sir….

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Hi Joanna, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences. I actually very much support your decision. To me, a clear sign that it’s the right time to pursue a different direction is when a child’s spirit is broken. There are of course going to be times when training and sports are difficult, and we simply need to encourage and help motivate our children. However, when the spirit of love for the sport is gone, I think it’s time to take a break. You may find that with time and separation from taekwondo, your son may find that fire and love for the sport again. I appreciate your willingness to allow him to step away for a while, try to be patient as he sorts through his ambitions at this stage of life. Thanks for caring so much!

      • Joanna

        Thank you so much sir for your respond it mean a lot to me, I’m more certain now on our decision. More power and God bless you Sir, I will keep you posted :)

  • Pingback: Top 5 Articles: What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform - Tim Elmore

  • Steph

    I like this about the parenting but I still think there are some weird coaches out there. I hope it’s better now then it was. There is something to be said for good sportsmanship, team work and doing your best. If it brings anger and criticisms, from or toward anyone, I do not see it as a benefit. I see it as a poison. I’ve just seen too much anger and nastiness, flow from players, coaches and.. shockingly.. the parents, (in the past) not to have strong opinions. :D

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thanks for your thoughts Steph. There will always be controllables and uncontrollables in a situation. All we can do is focus on how the controllables affect our kids lives and do what we can to positively impact them.

  • Pingback: What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform | Lax Factory®

  • V i l a

    i need to move one of my kids to a lower soccer division… how should state that on an email to the parents?

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thanks for your comment, I would need more information to best help you address the situation.

  • V i l a

    i coach soccer (8-9) year old kids, and our club right now have 2 divisions due to having too many kids from age 8-9 so we divided them and 2 groups and we call it division 1 and division 2.
    on our division 1 we have the kids that are more developed w soccer skill and division 2 is for the newer kids or even beginners.
    Right now i have to move on kid from D1 to D2, D2 would be better for the kid he will learn more on his own passe, while in D1 the practices are more advanced.
    I just dont know how to say in a nice way that D2 will be better for his/her kid.
    Thanks.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      It seems like you have the right intentions, and I encourage you to have the confidence to express to the parents that this is in the child’s best interest. In the long-term, this move will pay off and will help the child develop and get to where he/she wants to be. Here is an article that I wrote about some best practices that I encourage every leader to use as they face hard conversations…

      http://growingleaders.com/blog/leaders-hard-conversations/

      And remember, at the end of the day, no matter how much preparation you do for a conversation, we cannot control other’s reactions. I hope this helps you!

  • harold lloyd

    You can’t give a kid self esteem, he has to earn it. A parents job is to notice when that happens.

    Being a parent is a pain in the neck, and if it’s not, then you aren’t doing it right.

  • Pingback: Lacrosse Playground » What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform

  • lisa

    I know this is an older article, but I am deeply saddened by something that happened yesterday. My son is a pretty darn good basketball player. Always an A team player and an AAU Elite team player. He made the freshman team this year and has been working hard in practice. He asked coach what he’s doing wrong and why he’s not playing with the A players. He was told that at 5’5″ he is too small and weak to be an A player. Now, I would agree if the rest of the team was 6’5″ and 200lbs. But most of the players are not much bigger than him and many LESS skilled. How do you help your son through this? We told him we were proud of him no matter what team he played on A or B….but he is depressed after practices and feel that he can do no right. I am looking for help on this.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      This is a tough situation. One that I would struggle with if I were you, as a dad or mom. I think the best response to model for your son is to remind him he has two options: to quit or to continue improving his game for the future. It may not hurt to remind him of stories like Michael Jordan who got cut from his high school team early on. This may sound cliche but it’s a great opportunity for conversation on how to deal with unfair circumstances.

  • tmaxpa

    I think the real problem is that the problem parents DON’T enjoy watching their children play. They don’t know how to. They are far too caught up in needing to control the world to enjoy any of it.

    http://philosophyofreason.wikispaces.com

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Great point. Thank you for sharing. The question, “Do I enjoy and know how to enjoy watching my children play?”, is one we might need to ask ourselves as parents.

  • Pingback: How Parents Can Back Off But Still Love Their Kids | august589

  • athlete47

    As an athlete when your parents say something it adds a lot more stress to me I fell that parents should only say positive stuff because they need to stay out of it because it is our job as the athlete

  • Heather

    This applies to kids of all ages and activities! When I drop my kids off at school each morning, I say “Have fun, work hard, be safe! I love you!” It’s great for school kids as well as athletes. Thanks for the post!

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thanks for commenting, Heather! I completely agree.

  • Gym Mom

    My daughter is 10 and is a competitive cheerleader & Trampoline and Tumbling with USAG we are going on the 3rd yr of competitive sports. We both are in her gym 5 to 6 days a week. I understand the parents frustration when they don’t seem to living up to their potential; its time, cost of sport, and yes there are days I don’t want to go but its commitment. So to stop the frustration, I work at the gym this keeps me away from practice. BEST thing I could have done the reason I did this was yes it pays for her sport but I help new athletes too. I knew I made the right decision to set away from practice when my daughter told me when I watch it makes her nervous. That is not what I want, its hard enough to compete on the level she does at 10 yrs old! Now she comes running upstairs or I hear the coaches yelling for me to come over and watch her new stunts. I love just smiling down, and giving her a thumbs up. Much more fun for both of us.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Love this. Thank you for sharing!

  • anonymous2

    I have a 8 year old whom I can’t tolerate his behavior. When ever we told him not to do things suppose to to,he’ll do. He’s a bully to his classmates and even our home. We get rid of him and we don’twhat to do. Please help…..

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Hi Anonymous.

      I don’t claim to be a parenting expert, but I hope I can help. Recently I wrote an article on discipline and punishment here: http://growingleaders.com/blog/new-findings-discipline-dont-punish/

      It may benefit your son if there is a counselor or professional he or you could speak with. A counselor could further understand the situation and provide more guidance.

      Hope this helps,
      Tim

  • Dr. Mrs.NEERU JOSHI

    As per my standpoint student or child is the sole asset of us. We remain busy in taking care of the materialistic things but when it comes to take care of a ward , we seems to be careless for the most important task of the life, this is where a child use to find a space with in the peers & latest scenario is apparent to one and all. It is my urge to the nation to spare some quality time with their wards and to support and appreciate them when it is required. Parents must have the balance approach whereby scolding at times is required but taking care of the sentiments of the child also. All the best to you to initiate to guide the parenthood.
    Dr.(Mrs.) NEERU JOSHI
    Principal
    BBPS, Modinagar

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thank you for sharing, Dr. Joshi!

  • Anonymous

    Wow.. What a fantastic article. Which I had seen this when it was written.
    I notice a few comments that strike me as odd in the forum here, but I would like to say a few things from the side of the coach as I am a coach and have seen “events” between parents and children and coaches similar to what this article speaks about:

    First, as a parent, why can’t you just let your athlete know that you love them. That is the first thing that should happen. Second, why is it that a parent who obviously “feels” they need to be sure that their athlete is playing getting involved with the coach. I could see this if they felt the coach was creating an atmosphere that was a detriment to the athlete or even team, but that should be cause for either pulling your athlete or something more than getting involved with the coaching aspect of the relationship. Third, absolutely a parent should be involved with the health of the athlete. Following up with the status, treatment decision, and even seeking second opinions is something that should be followed up on by the parent, and in my personal opinion I wouldn’t care how old my child was…

    But the main thing that I took out of this article is this. If you are looking to help your kids become better athletes on the field, you need to be sure to be supportive in a manner that does not hinder the attitude of the child to the “sport”/”organization”. Telling your athlete that you don’t like the coach because they don’t let you play or the coach is stupid because that isn’t how you run an offense is not helping anyone. Those are opinions/feelings that your athlete does not need to hear. If you feel this way, the next season you can look for other opportunities. (and trust me there are a lot out there for every sport) However, telling/showing your child that you support them, teaching them that quitting is not an acceptable practice when you make a commitment (a life lesson that needs to be taught more often than not), making sure that your athlete is prepared physically with hydration/nutrition/equipment/etc is also your responsibility as a parent. Off schedule training IS NOT your responsibility. If your child does not have the determination or drive to want to train when they are not at practice, it is your responsibility to talk to them about how to become better you need to practice/train when you can outside of scheduled events and also consider your child may not be into that particular sport or organization. It is not your job to bring them down about the sport/organization, it is your job to pick up their spirits and help them become a better person through decision making and life lessons.

    Again, I agree with this article very strongly in the fact that if you as a parent want your athlete to excel on the field, the best thing you can do is to be supportive by being there every chance you have and telling them how much you enjoy that THEY are enjoying what they are doing. I said what I felt like saying and I hope that those of you who read it can understand the intention of my comments and the intention of the article and try to make sure you as a parent are being that support that your athlete needs.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Hi Coach,
      It seems you have the right intentions and understand the big picture. Thank you for commenting and sharing!

  • joe

    yeah, i hope my mom can get this right. i play tennis, and i have a big losing streak, i try hard and give it my all but i always seem to come up short. i came back from a compass draw tournament, where you are guaranteed to play 5 times. i was playing mixed, and although i made some errors, my partner was not so great, and i was everywhere on the court, so i get back, and the first thing she says, which she’s told me before is, “are you even trying anymore?” that hurt. i cant even look at her, so parents, encourage your kid and be positive, but dont be so critical, it can affect us quite a bit, especially if you’re close with your kid.

  • Dave

    I agree!!
    My daughter had one of the worst softball hitting games ever. For me it was frustrating to watch, for her it was disappointing. She was emotionally upset after one of the games. Luckily, her team did well and won the tournament, but it didn’t change how she felt about her performance or my wife and I on her performance.

    Little was said on the way home besides her needing to have to hit the ball, as if she didn’t already know it. After getting home, it was quickly to bed after a long day. When saying goodnight to her, I asked her if she was a little upset.
    She said she was. Told her don’t worry about it; I had some games like that.
    Let her know that she has previously hit the ball well, and we’ll continue to work on improving her hitting.

    Told her the one good thing is that the team won even with her not hitting
    well, but the 2nd most important thing, with a pause, was that I loved her. The next thing is what I will always remember, she smiled like she won a championship and told me that she love me too. It felt better than the
    first time she ever told me that she loved me. Instead of going to sleep with only disappointment on her mind, she went to sleep knowing that her dad who only expects the best from her loves her.

    Looking back on the day, I wouldn’t change a thing!

  • David

    What bothers me about the discussion is what appears to be ‘duplicity’ of thought. For instance…

    … A child of age 10…. “Good” student…. but a distracted student…pulling B’s and C’s…. in comes the parent…who with every test and homework assignment will ‘set the bar’ for this child. “I know you can do better the parent will say…” and truth of the matter is 99% of the time they can. We set ‘bars’ ALL THE TIME…. with academics…behavior…health…

    …then why not athletically? If your child has already performed at “X” level… and are now ‘calling it in’…or simply daydreaming of success and not working for it…then where is the harm in ‘resetting the bar’ for them?

    No one cares like you do for your child….NO ONE…..

    …we do it in so many other ways…why not here?

    …is excellence simply genetic…or is it in response to a ‘higher bar’ being set…?

    …or both?

  • bob

    Haha…insecure coaches who can be the reason for a lot of athletes failures yet its the parents fault…lol

  • JMayo

    I love to watch my daughter practice, play, compete. I love to see her have fun, I’m proud of her and love her very much no matter the score! (how did I do?) Thank you for the article and reminders of what’s important.

  • Kelsey

    I never got any of this. In two years, my mother came to one of my matches. Because it was senior night. I feel worthless. If it had been my brother, they would have called off every night to watch him.

  • ATCSTEVE

    I’m not a parent of an athlete, but as a personal certified athletic trainer I’ve been telling my athletes for years to play hard and have fun before games and practices. Furthermore, I talk to my student-athletes often that most parents don’t realize how you (as the athlete/child) decode everything they say and it’s often not exactly what they mean. At the same time, when a parent says something harsh, it typically is their way of saying “I love you and I just want the best for you” even though it doesn’t sound like it at all. Thanks for the article and confirming for me my ways of reinforcement and encouragement.

  • tim ellis

    before my son plays pinmto baseball, go do your best Bud and afterwrads (no matter what score result etc etc) – good game bud it was fun to watch

  • harv555

    There are no easy answers. My approach now is to make sure that it is his choice to play golf and to compete in tournaments. I want him to own the decision, as his own. Whatever happens is A-OK, as long as it is his decision and his life that he is owning. I wish I could express this better. But pushing the kid in sports is not appropriate unless he has a really really exceptional capability, which the vast majority do not.

  • Leo Jennifer

    My name is Jennifer and i want to testify of the good work done by a faithful DR PALOMA, a spell caster. in my life i never thought there is such thing as spiritual intercession. my problem started 5 months back when the father of my kids started putting up some strange behavior, i never knew he was having an affair outside our matrimonial home. it dawn on me on that faithful day 4th of April 21st 4:23pm when he came to the house to pick his things that was when i knew that situation has gotten out of hand and he then told me he was quitting the marriage which i have built for over 6 years, i was confused and dumbfounded i called on family and friends but to no avail. two months after i started having problem with my kids welfare rent-age and all of it, i really went through ***. until a day i was browsing on the internet and i happen to meet DR PALOMA Email palomaspelltemple@yahoo.com i never believed on this but i needed my man back so i gave the spell caster my problem at first i never trusted him so i was just doing it but you know a problem shared is half solved after a 2das my husband called me telling me that he his coming back home and that was all. now we are living happily and i still do contact him on this email: palomaspelltemple@yahoo.com

  • Bravo Ogbe

    Hello everyone,i am here to testify on how DR osuja helped me. December 2013, I saw a post on a particular site sharing testimony on how the great spell caster brought back her ex. Initially,i thought the post is unreal but i later had a second thought and i contacted the spell caster as instructed by the post. I have no option than to try my best because my husband left me with my three kids for another woman after a minor misunderstanding. Me and my husband got married over six years and we lived so happily. At a certain time my husband started behaving strange to me after we had a minor misunderstanding of which i begged for forgiveness. Before i knew what was going on, he left me and go for another woman who works in the same office with him. When i saw the post, i contacted the spell caster on his email and he told me not to worry that my husband will come back to me in two days time once he finish casting the reunite spell on him. To my greatest surprise, my husband came back to me begging for a second chance after a maximum days of five back and we are living happily together as one family again. I want to use this medium to let everyone here know that this is real and if you are out there having this same problem please kindly contact Dr.OSUJA, the great spell caster via his email {PROPHETOSUJA@GMAIL.COM}because he can done the unexpected.
    Wish you all the Best too!

  • Christa

    So just throwing this out there…. we should accept average and mediocrity and say we love to watch you play! With a giant smile on our face. While we know (and they know) they didn’t try their hardest or do their best. Isn’t this the reason for an ENTIRE generation of lazy underperforming kids. While I don’t agree with forcing and degradation I do think some children need to know doing their best and reaching for the next level is what is acceptable. NOT; YAY!! Go! Honey you didn’t try at ALL! we love you! So go ahead and bash… but for those who want to motivate your child, please feel free to provide pointers on how to motivate your child to do their best and perform to their highest potential.