How parental pressure affects the young athlete
By Bobbie Quinn, Co-Founder, Gladiator Custom Mouthguards
The atmosphere around youth sports isn’t what it used to be. More than ever, competitive youth sports are built around elite athletes—the kids who play one sport all year round, have been playing since a very young age, and are on multiple club teams. They are usually considered the best players on a team.
And oftentimes, those kids have an increased amount of parental pressure on them.
With the prospect of college scholarships and the ever-increasing earning potential for professional athletes, youth sports are becoming much more highly specialized to groom those elite athletes for a particular future. And parents seem to be the driving force behind that.
Today’s young athletes are feeling more pressure from their parents to play a certain sport, or even a certain position within that sport. And some are even being told to ignore defense in favor of scoring, as putting up big numbers is an easy way of getting recognized.
In those cases, parents look at their child’s athletic ability in terms of an investment, which is no different from a parent capitalizing on their child’s cuteness by putting them in commercials or pageants. They hope that if their child focuses on just one sport that they excel at early, they’ll master that sport and be able to land a college scholarship or professional career.
As a parent, it’s only natural to want to expose your child to certain activities and steer them in a particular direction. But there’s a line between pushing your child toward a certain sport and being a “stage parent.”
Everyone knows that parent who is trying to live vicariously through their kid, pushing them to be a professional athlete. They’re typically the ones who scream at refs, coaches, other players, or—even worse—their own child.
Nothing good ever comes from this and it just puts unfair pressure on the child. It’s embarrassing for them and foments insecurities, as they always envision their parent screaming at them from the stands. It also puts them in a bad position with their coach.
It’s important to remember that the whole point of youth sports is for kids to have fun, be exposed to new things and learn valuable life lessons. There are simple, fundamental skills that athletes learn at the youth level that are taken for granted as the skill level increases.
So when the games revolve around only the best players or the best players are held back from exploring new sports, it hinders the growth that young athletes need. And when youth sports are clouded by intense pressure, kids stop wanting to participate all together.
Remember, elite skill isn’t the only thing that makes a pro athlete; passion for the sport plays a major role too. And the quickest way to burn an athlete out is by putting too much pressure on them.
The Bottom Line: Kids have enough pressures, particularly when it comes to sports, and to heap parental pressure on a child is counterproductive. That’s why it’s important to let young athletes explore new sports, try different positions on the team, and learn fundamental skills.
After all, keeping things fresh helps to keep them engaged.
From an article appearing on the Gladiator Custom Mouthguards website. Published with permission.