What are the worst sports parenting mistakes?

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I was listening to a webinar from “Growing Champions for Life” sports parenting expert David Benzel and he went through a list of nine of the worst sports parenting mistakes. It was during a talk about whether to push our kids in sports–or not.

Who is David Benzel? He’s a former sports parent himself, whose kids were athletic, loved their sports and made it to the pros—as he says—in spite of him. He felt like kids were coached in sports, but felt he was sorely lacking in knowledge about being a sports parent. He said that he and his wife changed throughout the years and now he coaches sports parents in many different sports including gymnasts, tennis, baseball and swimming.

I discovered Benzel on USA Swimming and have read his book from Chump to Champ, plus I have several copies of his little booklet “5 Powerful Strategies for Sport Parent Success” lying around the house in case I need a refresher.

I too changed through the years as I learned from my swim mom mistakes. I continued to grow as a parent, and looking back there are many things I’d never dream of doing today that I thought were perfectly normal years ago.

The list of 9 awful things sports parents do that Benzel presented was from the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. 

Here’s the list:

ONE
Exhibit an outcome orientation.

TWO
Are critical, negative and overbearing.

THREE
Apply pressure to win or perform.

FOUR
Make sport too serious.

FIVE
Are over-involved and controlling.

SIX
Compare child to other athletes.

SEVEN
Distract child during competitions.

EIGHT
Restrict player’s social life.

NINE
Too much sports talk.

Between me and my hubby, I think we’ve got this list covered. We’ve been guilty of every single one on the list.482023_4501677623832_667860262_n

How many on this list have you done? What are things you’ve done in the past as a parent that you wouldn’t do now?

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7 thoughts on “What are the worst sports parenting mistakes?

  1. As a teacher, I’m still learning how to deal with classroom competition, whether in sports or academics. Personally, it’s so easy to enumerate the “good practises”. It’s the application part that is difficult. I mean, I want my students to do their best so they can win. But I also want them to not just play to win.
    My sister and I are thinking how to handle situations like this with my nephew. I say, “Let future us handle that problem.” 😛
    Thanks for this great article! 🙂

    • I recommend you check out David Benzel’s website. He answers your questions on application thoroughly in his books and in particular his latest webinar. I wish I would have discovered him years ago.

  2. I really think you might like “The Winning Weekend Warrior” for parents or kids. It focuses on strategy, tactics, and the ‘mental game’ for all sports. And, by “strategy” I don’t mean just HOW to win, but to understand what winning means for YOU. It’s great that some people strive to be champions. I love it. It expresses the boundaries of what it means to be human. THEY are US and God bless them. But that is an experience for a very small percentage of the people who can and do experience sports. The unidimensional view of sports has ruined it for many people. Here’s a link: https://www.amazon.com/author/truthtable
    The other thing I thought I’d mention (I think this is in the book too) is an article by Tversky and Kahneman that suggests over time coaches, parents and even the athlete themselves become more critical. Why? Because, although performance generally gets better over time, there is a lot of variance. Some days, you can jump 7′ some days only 6’6″. Part of that is just due to chance. On average, just because of a law of statistics (regression to the mean), very good performances (which elicit praise) tend to be followed by somewhat worse performance. Meanwhile, very bad performances (which elicit criticism) tend to be followed by somewhat better performances. Therefore when parents or coaches criticize they are rewarded by seeing a better performance and when they praise, they are punished by the poorer performance that comes next. Over time, if you’re not careful, it’s easy for you to become more and more critical.

    • Wow! I appreciate your comment and I’ll definitely look up the book and article you mentioned. I totally agree with you about about performance and winning. Thanks for sharing great ideas and resources.

    • I agree with you completely. His advice is so practical and based on experience and research. He recommends a lot of books as resources and I’m learning more by reading them, such as “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, and “The Price of Privilege” by Madeline Levine.

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