Park Ridge Football believes the issue of coaches and parents obsessing about either youth or high school athletic status, house vs travel levels, Freshman A vs B decisions, All-Star vs. Elite adolescence, High School vs MAC scholarships, etc. have created an unhealthy climate and unusual competition amongst some of our local families, especially in team sports. Team sports generally require a greater number of athletes to perform their role as a team to be successful, which requires diversity of skills, size, and talents. Teams need a lot of athletes to succeed. Teams don’t need crazy sport parents to over-manage their child’s love of their sport. All of us are a little crazy, but let’s not make it a competition!
Parents Should Lower Their Expectations
After 54 years of experience, Park Ridge Falcons Football & Cheer has seen many parents living vicariously through the exploits of their children in youth football and cheer, and now the psychiatrists have dubbed the condition Achievement by Proxy Syndrome. Of course, the issue of overbearing parents and coaches in youth sports isn’t a new one. However, in our opinion, things are definitely getting worse from a parent’s expectation. We think some parents are taking their seriousness about youth sports to new unhealthy extremes. The intensity, ferocity and unusually high degree and instances of over-parenting (“helicopter parenting”) is shocking on many levels to many youth coaches across different sports and age levels in today’s COVID world.
Parents should encourage each youth player to have a positive attitude and strong work effort on the fields. It is our responsibility as parents and volunteer youth coaches to help appropriately mold the next generation of athletes. Of course, athletics can help in so many ways to develop a child’s mental and physical health, which can lead to great appreciation for teamwork, sportsmanship, and leadership. In most situations and over a little time, the youth athlete will clearly illustrate both their potential and commitment level to unbiased and trained coaches. We know they’ll be recognized and appropriately rewarded without a parent’s help, especially as parents lose control of their child’s situation (Marv Marinovich story).
Regardless of What Parents Want, Kids Just want to Have Fun in Sports
If your son or daughter desires to push their game to the next level, then they’ll let you know by their skills, effort and attitude on the fields or courts among their peer group. Just realize that more times than not, their true passions and interests lie somewhere else, maybe in music, chess or a different sport than you’d prefer, so perhaps it is at those times of discovery and acknowledgement to put down the coffee, whistles and pride of a parent, and get a new and fresh perspective through the eyes of your own child.
As Ken Reed, author of Ego vs. Soul in Sports points out in this article, when it comes to youth sports, as parents and coaches — we need to chill out. Our sons and daughters almost assuredly aren’t going to be pro athletes. Dr. Chris Stankovich, a sport psychology consultant and advocate for positive youth sports development, has done a nice job summarizing several of the key issues involved in youth sports today:
“Youth sports burnout in America is increasing at an alarming rate, and millions of kids nationwide are becoming both mentally and physically fatigued from playing sports too intensely, often year-round. Sadly, this phenomenon seems to be getting worse, and not better. This is probably due in large part to several contributing factors: Our country’s great love of sports; increasing numbers of families turning to sports as a means of a free college education (or even an opportunity at professional sports); and parents living vicariously through their children and holding on to the pluralistic ignorant notion that “more is better” in terms of their kids playing sports better than they themselves did as kids.”
Let Kids be Kids When It Comes to Youth Sports
Achievement by Proxy has been plaguing American football and other youth sports for some time, as discussed in this article. We realize that most of us need to try and keep our kids out in front – both in the classroom and on their sporting fields – without living through them vicariously. Our community has been blessed with numerous academic and athletic success stories, and we hope you learn how to best nurture your son and daughter without obsessing over their achievements. It’s their childhood, not yours. Please don’t try to make them a ‘Super Star’, just allow them to be a kid on a local sports team with their friends. They rest will take care of itself – without the hurt or shame of living up to your expectations.