The little things parents of sporting champions get right


Social worker, teacher and the founder of Tweens2teen

If your kids are into sport, then pick up these lessons from parents of sporting champions. It may just help make their dreams possible.

All over the world there are kids getting up in the dark to head to training, hoping to reach a sporting goal. Others get home to a late dinner and then start the homework shift.

There are young athletes playing the juggle of school, practice and home life every day. And right beside them, either helping or hindering, will be their parents.

None of us can know where this sporting journey will take our kids. But as parents, we can do lots of little things that will make us champions right now.

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”


Things that parents of champions get right

There’s no denying that a child cannot become a sporting champion on their own. The kids who make it have a supportive team around them. Their coach, their parents and other loved ones. I’ve written other articles about what to do with an abusive coach, and how to find a good sporting club. This one puts the spotlight on us. The parents.

Here are 10 things that parents get right when raising a sports champion. If your kids love their sport, you should work on them too!

1. Take care of what happens off the field

So many things have to come together for a young person to realise their sporting dreams. Parents need to realise their domain in the sporting world is what happens off the field, not on it. Leave the rest to your child and their coach.

2. Focus on character

Sporting success is about more than trophies and medals. Real champions have a depth of character that enables them to keep going.

Care less about their scores or what team they are on. Help your child develop qualities like resilience, courage, respect and perseverance.

For some pointers on how to do this, check out my article on what parents should say to their sporty kids.

3. Realise that half of playing a sport is a mental game

As kids strive for sporting goals, sometimes their thinking gets rattled. Champion parents take the psychological health of their kids just as serious as the physical needs.

4. Be a good spectator

Our kids pick up cues from how we interact with their games. If we send the message that their involvement is healthy and fun, they’re more likely to enjoy it too. If we blow up at every decision that doesn’t go their way, we’re making it more of a battle than a game.

“If you make every game a life-and-death thing, you’re going to have problems. You’re going to be dead a lot.” – Dean Smith

5. Don’t lose sight of reality

Few kids will become a champion, but everyone can enjoy the journey. Don’t rush kids to pick their one sport or take their games more serious than they should.

6. Recognise motivation comes from within

Forcing a child to practice isn’t sustainable. Champions love their sport. They’re driven to keep improving their skills; to aim higher. Give your child space to decide if the sporting life is for them or not.

7. Let kids learn from setbacks

Kids who have things come easy can struggle when the going gets tough. To be a champion, kids need to develop grit and determination. They’ll need to fight through disappointments and keep working towards their goals.

Read more on this topic in my article on overcoming disappointment.

8. Keep sport in it’s box

It’s easy for the life of young athletes to be all about their sport, but parents need to help them have a balanced life.

There needs to be times for school work, fun with friends and flopping on the couch. Conversations should be about things other than the sport too, or you’ll end up driving them mad!

9. Avoid the princess treatment

When kids do a lot of sport, their life can look different to that of their brothers and sisters. Don’t let the sport make them too special though. They still need to do their fair share of chores, not treated as a privileged member of the family.

10. Play the long game

Success is a series of steps, not first place at the under 8’s carnival.

Kids who become champions know that sometimes to get where they’re going they need to let others win today to focus on an event further down the track.

Don’t expect them to be at their best all the time or win at every competition when they’re chasing lofty goals.

When you watch parents at the Olympics, there’s one emotion on their face that stands out. It’s not pride, and it’s not surprise. It’s joy. They know that their kids have been plugging away for years and today it’s all come together. They know the disappointments and challenges that have happened along the way. They know the sacrifices they’ve made too.

That’s the sort of parent that sports champions need. One that knows. One that quietly keeps things going during the good and bad times. This video sums it up pretty nicely…

What do you think are the hallmarks of a good sports parent? Can you think of other qualities that I’ve left off my list? I’d love you to share your thoughts below.

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