Parental influence on athlete success is very crucial for the development of the athlete. However, parents often consciously or unconsciously make many mistakes that negatively affect the athlete.

What are these mistakes? How can parents help the athlete instead of hindering them from reaching their goals?

We often observe many parents trying to do everything for their children so that they can help them achieve their goals and become successful. 

During this time, they make many mistakes that negatively influence their child and performance. 

Maybe this happens because they see their own “desires and expectations” in their children’s eyes. But most of the time, athletes perceive all this interest as pressure, which often causes stress and sometimes even leads athletes to quit sports. So, while parents try to become “supporters” in their child’s effort, they unconsciously become enemies and destroy their dreams.

Parents should keep in mind and remember children’s reasons/motives to participate in sports. Also, they have to remember that success and victory will come slowly with the gradual self-development of the athlete. It is also good to remember that children start participating in sports because they seek excitement, socialize with friends, have fun, and have a good time.

Therefore, children should be free to choose the sport they like to participate in, the level of involvement, and their goals.

The role of the family and parents in competitive sport should therefore be restricted:

To the psychological and emotional support of the athlete

Providers of the sport experience for their children

Interpreters of the sport experience for their children

Role models for their children

To the encouragement of the athlete

To the role of the driver to and from training

To pay what they have to pay (financial support, equipment needed by the athlete, clothing, etc.)

In Being a role model 

In respecting and trusting the coach.

To not focus on the result but in the effort

To encourage free choice to participate in sport

To support their child’s goals

To help the child learn through participation in sport

Not to talk inadequately in front of the child about coaches, athletes, or even referees.

To applaud the child, their team, and opponents, regardless of the outcome.

If parents try to stick to the above, they will see a substantial improvement in the behavior and performance of their child-athletes. It is also crucial for parents to communicate with the coach to understand everything regarding their children’s development.

However, parents should NOT “fall” into the trap of completing the coach, criticizing, or impersonating the coach.

In this case, the athlete will become confused and obviously will not know who to listen to and trust, which maybe be a factor in abandonment. There needs to be trust in the coach, and the coach knows how to evaluate the child and give instructions and advice.

Parenting in sports is not an easy task, and it takes a lot of effort to maintain the balance. But don’t forget that if you want to be “supporters” and not “enemies” in this process, it is worth the effort!

Thalia Panagi

Associate Lecturer at UCLan Cyprus MSc Sport Psychology

Registered Counselling Psychologist (Licence No. #381)

[email protected]

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