Keeping Your Parental Expectations in Check for Sports Kids

Coaching Young Athletes On How to Let Go of Mistakes

Keeping Expectations Under Control

Regan McMahon, author of Revolution in the Bleachers: How Parents can Take Back Family Life in a World Gone Crazy over Youth Sports, explores parents’ expectations for their kids in sports.

McMahon stresses that some parents use sports as an opportunity to live vicariously through their kids. She writes, “Because of our expectations, we may push our kids to play sports, join an elite team, to stay in sport long after the child has stopped having fun because we’re living through the child” (177).

Parents want to live through their kids for various reasons. Some parents did not play sports as children and regret it. On the other end of the spectrum, some parents were exceptional athletes themselves and want their kids to follow in their footsteps. Young athletes become the vehicle for fulfilling their parents’ ambitions. The goal of the parent becomes the goal of the child.

Parents put a lot of time and money into their kids’ sports. Many want their investment to pay off, perhaps by their children receiving college scholarships. Some parents have a firm expectation that their children will receive a scholarship. Higher education costs cause parents to seek out other affordable options.

The NCAA, the governing body of collegiate athletics, found that of those who are receiving a college scholarship, very few actually receive a full ride. The numbers vary depending on the sport, but on average athletes’ receive $8,707 in scholarship money. College scholarships are not widespread. Also, athletes have to reapply for scholarships each year and each sport is limited in the number of scholarships they can give out.

Kids’ success (or lack thereof) in sports can have an impact on their relationship with their parents. Parents become so involved in sports that their kids’ success is connected to their own self-worth. Kids’ sport achievements give parents bragging rights. Some parents take credit for their kids’ achievements.

McMahon talks about a “cult of celebrity” in sports. The “cult of celebrity” started in professional sports and has filtered down to youth sports. Under this model, the sole focus is on the best athletes. Some parents are prone to buying into this “cult of celebrity” and as a result over estimate their kids’ athletic talent.

Some parents believe their kids are the best athletes, despite their performance. Parents place an emphasis on finding the best coaching and training possible. They think that with the best training, kids can automatically be good athletes, overlooking the importance of natural talent.

Parents hold many expectations for their kids in sports. McMahon has highlighted some of those expectations in her book. For more information about parent expectations, refer to her book Revolution in the Bleachers: How Parents can Take Back Family Life in a World Gone Crazy over Youth Sports.

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