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Should I care that my child is bad at sports?

As often as parents dream of academic success for their kids, they also dream of athletic success. How many dads have spent hours coaching their kids in the backyard, trying to correct swings and optimize throws? How many moms have contacted private coaches and driven countless miles to practices and games and more? How many did these things out of fun and love, yes, but also with the hope that it might lead to something, well, more?

Crying boy

It’s the smart and realistic local sports league that counsels parents from the start that the vast majority of league participants are not going to ever reach the professional level in whatever sport. They aren’t. There may be opportunities for the best of the best to participate in stand out youth leagues, or even get some attention from colleges, but even full-scholarships are rare. When you think about the number of kids who play sports at the local level compared to the number of players who make it to the professional level, it’s clear the deck is stacked against that bet. Better to accept that your child is not the next Tom Brady or Mia Hamm now – and focus on the fun in the game.

For more information, read What parents should know about athletic scholarships.

Whose dream is it?

When it comes to sports and athletic dreams, first think honestly about whose dream of professional athletic glory it is. You’re not the first to transfer some of your dreams to your child in an attempt to live vicariously – it’s a fairly normal thing. But that can lead to some unrealistic expectations and pressure on your child.
If your child truly does have an athletic gift and enjoys playing the sport, you can support and encourage — but carefully. The drive to succeed athletically really does have to come from your child. He or she, after all, is the one who is out there playing the game and giving it all, physically speaking. It’s a fine line to walk.

Read what celebrity mom and Olympican Summer Sanders has to say about raising child athletes.

Sportsmanship and fun first-for all of you

In any and all sports for kids, learning, sportsmanship and fun should come first. Winning is terrific, yes, but it’s not the only thing. Sports is a metaphor for life, which means sometimes you lose. Very likely the guidelines for your child’s sports league point this out and offer it as a core league goal. Rather than rejecting it with a, “but my kid is so good” mentality, embrace that athletic is about fun first — for all of you.

Know when to pull back

There may be a time when it becomes obvious when, as a parent, you need to pull back. Do so. Whether it’s injuries to your child in the sport that could affect health and mobility in the future, or realizing that you yourself are putting too much pressure on your child to be something they just aren’t, or one of many other scenarios, pull back – for the sake of everyone’s emotional health as much as anything. Accept that your child is not perfect athletically, and they likely won’t be basking in the glory of arena lights and press attention – but do let them bask in the glory of your love and acceptance of them.

Related video

What kids wish their parents knew about sportsmanship

A presentation where a group of high school athletes talk about the poor sportsmanship they see parents displaying at high school sporting events. Originally produced in 1999, it’s still a timeless message about the need for good sportsmanship.

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