sport parents make this mistake

 Sport Parents Make This Mistake And It’s Dangerous. 

This is not a click-bait title, this post is about stopping this mistake that can literally save your young athlete! But, sport parents make this mistake all of the time. 

Albert Jennings was one of the top youth golfers in the entire nation before his 15th birthday. He won 90% of the tournaments he entered between ages 10-15 years old. He not only practiced and played golfer every single day and played in a tournament every three days, but he always wore pants when he golfed.  As a kid, he wore pants because was going to be on the PGA Tour.

PGA Tour player and 3x All-American Patrick Rodgers, once asked him “How could [he] get to Albert’s level?” 

So, what happens to the prodigy and wunderkind when they start to struggle? It’s the same thing that happens to all good athletes, it depends on the parents.  

As parents, what is the precedent that we set after unsuccessful outcomes and poor results? 

 A precedent is a rule or principle that serves as a guide for future decisions. I never thought it was applicable outside of the law and especially to sport parents. Oh my, how I was wrong. 

Read 10 Reminders if You’re A Stressed Out Parent of An Athlete

Sport Parents make this mistake of setting a poor precedent after every important game.

  • Do we as parents start drilling them on the way home?
  • Is our role to point out everything they did incorrectly and how they can “get better?”
  • Is comparing them to others a common theme for us? 
  • Is the precedent we set immediately calling their coach?
  • Do we hit up another practice session right away?
  • Do we yell or pile on about how they aren’t “trying?”

On a long enough timeline, when do we as parents start to internally panic after enough mediocre results and feel helpless to just fix it for them? 

How parents behave and communicate after an event is the precedent that is set. Sport parents make this mistake by setting bad examples. 

When Albert Jennings started to struggle and not meet the super high expectations, the precedent took over, which was “what’s the matter with the swing?” Something is WRONG and we must FIX it! After every single unsuccessful event, it became what’s the matter? 

Listen to my guest episode on Parenting Peak Performers Podcast.

Focusing only on the problem and trying to figure it out for them begins a vicious negative cycle. What happens is that The athlete starts to search instead of practice. Very quickly the bottom can drop out because they get away from sound fundamentals. Their confidence which is already fragile now becomes an issue and once athletes lose confidence, it’s difficult to get it back.  

Athlete’s that had success early, yet later on struggle, face a difficult path.

They often start to question their own athletic identity of “I win.” More importance is then placed upon results and outcome to regain their identity of “this is who I am.”! Now, they feel like they are on an island by themselves and if they are unlucky enough to be told “it’s all in your head,” then they are shot into the abyss. 

If we stare at the abyss long enough, the abyss stares back at us! 

When we set a poor precedent as parents, we are inserting ourselves into the mix of how to fix what went wrong and soon, the young athlete looks for you to solve it for them!

We do not build capacity that way, all it does is build dependency.

We don’t know what we don’t know, but sadly sport parents make this mistake of setting the wrong precedent and it can be one of the most detrimental actions toward development. 

We all want the best for our own kids, but isn’t it odd that we are the hardest on those who we love the most? We are hardest on them because we also have the highest of expectations for them. 

Parents, we NEED to develop a healthy relationship with winning & losing. Setting the correct precedent means simply operating the same after good and bad outcomes! We need to have a game plan before events and think about balance and perspective and keeping the sport pure. 

I interviewed Albert and gained so much wisdom from him. His insight is incredible and just know that he’ll be an awesome golf coach!

dr rob bell

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & Associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out all the books.   

Please check out the podcast 15 Minutes of Mental Toughness as we interview expert athletes and coaches about Mental Strength and their Hinge Moment.