sport parents

sport parents Vicarious Or Supportive Sport Parents

Do you live through your child or with your child?

best book for sport parentsThis post is an excerpt from the book- Don’t “Should” on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness

Your child is having a great season as the post-season approaches. He or she is worried. He or she asks you the question, “What if I lose?”

What is your response?

Vicarious parents would reply along the lines of, “That’s not going to happen, you’re so good” or “You shouldn’t think that way.” If you’re a mom or dad or guardian who responds this way, you’re likely living directly through your child’s success or failure. You still mean well and love your kid, but you’ve just become too emotionally invested in the results.

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These types of sport parents, unfortunately, lack the perspective to make rational decisions. They live and die with every play and every game. Their child is the best when he or she wins, and they are the worst when they lose.

All or nothing…

  • Vicarious folks are as close as possible physically to every practice as they can be.


  • The Vicarious parent often blames others when important outcomes do not go well.


  • Vicarious parents are the ones comparing their son or daughter to others.


  • Vicarious one’s stress out quickly and easily.


  • Vicarious parents are usually the ones at the games shouting instructions.


  • Vicarious sport parents feel their child’s success is a reflection of themselves.


  • Vicarious parents don’t realize they are living through their child.

The Ultimate Sports Parents Guide: How to Have a Great Athlete in 2019

Supportive parents, on the other hand, answers the opening “What if I lose?” question a different way. They approach along the lines of, “Why do you think that?” or “Let’s walk it through…what if you do lose?”

Supportive mothers and fathers provide an environment that remains safe.

They don’t try to solve their kid’s concerns. They encourage their children to think for themselves, come up with their solutions and handle their outcomes. Home is not a fan base.  Athletes can rest assured that in the house, no matter how they perform, their identity is not just as an athlete. They have unconditional love and support. But, if they do need a house-cleaning service, or regular cleaning service to repair any emotional damage, one is available. Lastly, these children aren’t nagged about their preparation or whether they are nervous before important performances.

  • Supportive sport parents attend from a distance.


  • Supportive parents ensure their son or daughter assumes responsibility, not blaming coaches or situations.


  • Supportive parents stress effort over results.


  • Supportive parents know their son or daughter’s performance is just a shadow of them, not a reflection.


  • Supportive parents make sure they aren’t over the top.


  • Supportive parents are aware of the long-term


  • Supportive parents don’t “should” on their kids.

The Ultimate Sports Parents Guide: How to Have a Great Athlete in 2019

Both types of parents make sacrifices and difficult decisions for their child along the journey. No one questions whether love and support are there.

Unfortunately, these vicarious or supportive labels are not mutually exclusive. We may sometimes be one type of parent with one child and another style with another. It’s possible for the pendulum to swing to both extremes and even for us to live in the middle.

This is about progress, not perfection; we are going to make mistakes, but that is the point of this book- Don’t “should” on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness How can we help our child build mental toughness? How can we become better, more aware parents in the process?

Think about some of the parents of famous athletes and who comes to mind? Was it a parent that stayed behind the scenes or one that sparked controversy?

One of the most successful sports parents produced two number-one overall NFL draft picks, two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, and two Super Bowl MVPs. Archie Manning said it best, “We just tried to raise good kids and have a good family. I don’t like the perception that it (having the boys play pro football) was a plan.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a mother of a collegiate basketball player uttered the words to the head coach when asked about her son’s goals, “My goals are his goals.” Okay, then.

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.

1-Minute of Mental Toughness for Sport Parents-

Here are three (3) tips that will help you help your young athlete!

sport parents

Check out the book ON SALE  Don’t Should on Your “Kids” Build Their Mental Toughness 

A change has occurred — youth sports have been professionalized and there has been a perversion of potential. It has become scholarships over development, trophies over toughness, and talent over tenacity.

 The professionalization has created an environment of externally driven, perfectionist, and stressed competitors. Parenting athletes also require such a vast amount of sacrifice both emotionally and financially.

Are we doing it correctly as a sport parent?

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 on Mental Toughness 

Parents & coaches.This book will build your child’s Mental Toughness.

You can check out all of the media on the book here.  

OR buy it here— Don’t “Should” on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness


Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   


Don’t “should” on your Kid

Excerpt from book: Don’t “Should” on your kids: Build Their Mental Toughness 

Wade was a very talented 12-year-old hockey player, but he was a coach’s nightmare. He would only play hard when he felt like it, which was, unfortunately, only about a quarter of the time.

Not surprisingly, Wade’s father also worked whenever he felt like it. He had Dilbert comic strips up in his office and often bragged about how little he worked.

Children will become in many ways what their parents are, and we shape their belief systems. However, parents cannot give away what we don’t possess ourselves.

There are three types of people: winners, losers, and at-leasters.

These are not only three types of people, but actually three distinct beliefs that we form as children. They shape who we eventually become.

Winners and losers make up a very small percentage of the population. For example, when anyone discusses athletes in life, no one really talks about the twentieth or fortieth best athlete in that sport. They reference just a select few, the very best, the top .1 percent. Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Lebron James, Missy Franklin, etc. They are referencing winners, athletic geniuses blessed to excel. These people will be successful in any situation.

Losers, on the other hand, are born from a combination of poor circumstances and choices and a belief that everything turns out bad for them. These are the victims in life. It never is about them; it’s someone else’s fault. Again, a very small percentage of the population.

Most, however, are the at-leasters.  At-leasters are not losers—far from it. They are involved, active, and in it. But, they lack the ingredients at becoming winners. They believe that “at-least” we showed up, “at-least” we weren’t last, “at-least” we weren’t as bad as them. It’s a defense mechanism that protects them from the pain of not being winners. It is a struggle for at-leasters to get out of their comfort zones. We have all been there, but we don’t have to live there.

At-leasters go through the motions. Settling is okay. Playing it safe was good enough. Our comfort zone was comfortable. We would rather be a “maybe” than a “no.” Be good, but just not too good. If I was really good one day, I’ll just say, “Yeah, but I’m not that good.

The “at-least” mentality is toxic and systemic. The environment of youth sport has perpetuated at-leasters.

Youth sport that gives everyone a trophy has created an at-least mentality. At least we got a trophy… We don’t create winners by making everyone NOT losers.

However, youth sport often stresses winning so much over development that it has also created a culture of at-leasters. The short-term is magnified and the long-term is miniaturized. The long-term is looked at through a telescope and the short-term through a microscope.

No one wants to lose, but when we only emphasize winning over development, it causes us to self-protect. One way or another, “at least we weren’t last” creeps into our mentality. We rarely create winners or mental toughness by only treasuring winning.

Athletes today have become perfectionists and safe. They will do everything they can to please coaches and parents. Athletes learn that in order to please coach and parents is to just not lose.

It’s hard to be driven when you are being driven. We can also inadvertently drive a child into the at-least mentality. It’s not about you—it’s about them. We can’t make it about us, and it cannot become about us. We fail when and if it does. The best sport parents seem to be behind the scenes, providing encouragement and a supportive environment.


Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness   


When it comes to parenting, your example isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing. As a professional speaker and author who studies and writes about what the best do better than the rest, I was blown away by what was possibly the most amazing audience I’ve ever spoken to.

I recently spoke at the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association annual convention. Those folks are leadership personified. The biggest, fastest, strongest, healthiest group of people you’ll ever meet.

What they do in their daily work with the people they lead (college athletes) applies to each and every one of us in the work we do leading our children at home and our employees in the workplace. As I thought about the phenomenal impression they all made on me it got me thinking about precisely what leadership is at its core. Even more so, it made me take a long hard look in the mirror.

You’ve probably hear the expression he or she “just gets it”. Well, when it comes to leadership these coaches ALL “get it”. I didn’t see any negative, lazy, disengaged, unhappy, overweight or unhealthy looking people sitting in that audience anywhere. ZERO… not a single one. I also didn’t see them drinking at the bar late into the night which is a common occurrence at most conventions. These folks were the epitome of high performance. They didn’t live vicariously through the success of their athletes either. They were too busy creating their own success. They were the epitome of mental toughness and simply walked their talk.

The entire experience was a great reminder that when it comes to parenting, your example isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing. Think about it… How do these coaches convince world-class athletes they are capable of being bigger, faster and stronger? Quite simply they do it by being bigger, faster and stronger themselves.

“Our lives are a mirror, what we give out gets reflected back to us by others.”

Whatever you’re doing is contagious. We are all living proof of that statement. I know from experience:

  • Balance is contagious. I found that when I wasn’t modeling balance for my team, they weren’t balanced.
  • Conversely, when they were nervous during a big game or a key timeout, if I was calm their nerves would settle and they’d become calm. Calm is contagious.

Think again before criticizing your child, their coach, or the officials. Bite your tongue instead of yelling at your child to run faster or work harder. Besides, yelling is a poor excuse for coaching and for parenting.

I recently had an executive coaching client complain to me that most of his employees were “negative and low effort” (his words not mine). I encouraged him to stop keeping “banker’s hours” and be more positive and kind to them. Which, to his credit he did, it’s no small surprise that they just posted their best quarter since 2006.

We need to be the change we wish to see in others. Kids need a model to see not just a motto to say. They crave authenticity and can sniff out B.S. a mile away.  Their B.S. meter is calibrated with even more sensitivity and is more accurate than the adults you lead.

I share this with you because being at the CSCCa convention was an important reminder that I need to heed this advice as much as anyone. I have a 9 year old who is ADHD. If I want her to be less impulsive and more mindful, I need to practice mindfulness and emulate it better for her. I also have an 11 year old child who is entering a very emotional stage and prone to drama and outbursts. If I want her to be calm and patient, guess what I have to get better at.

About John Brubaker | Performance Consultant
John is the author of two award-winning books:

John_Brubaker_high_resJohn Brubaker is a nationally renowned performance consultant, speaker and award-winning author. More importantly he’s a husband and a father. John teaches audiences how to obtain better results in business with straightforward tools that turbo charge performance. Using a multidisciplinary approach, “Coach Bru” helps organizations and individuals develop their competitive edge.

5 ways parents can build mental toughness

 5 Ways to Help Your Kid With Mental Toughness


“Perfect little Rachel ” That’s how her parents described and introduced their child, a high-school, 2nd baseman. That’s pretty high expectations, and I was curious how long they had been calling her that. She was not mentally tough and it had little to do with her.

1. Call them a competitor:

How do you introduce and describe your kids? “There goes our little winner” or “Here comes Johnny, our star goalie.” Be careful about using descriptors that emphasize only part of our identity. We are not always winners, and we certainly don’t always lose.

We are also an athlete. 

BUT, we can compete in everything we do.

We can compete in grades, paying attention, and playing sports. Emphasize that competing means against yourself, not anyone else.

2. Love your partner:

It’s easier for me to be a good father than a good husband. I don’t like that part of me, but I can just love on my kids as much as I want.

With my wife, I have listen, reflect, emphasize, budget, discipline, strategize, and co-parent. It’s part of being in a relationship, it takes more work. I can’t wait to be patient…

However, the most important relationships take place within the four walls of our home. If we want to help our kid with mental toughness, then we have to work on ourselves as well.

How we interact, show affection, and disagree with our partner, models how our kids will see the outside world. Remember, whatever they see as a child is “normal,”  you get to define it.

3. Allow them to take ownership:

There is a big difference between ownership and buy-in.

Buy-in means its someone else’s idea. Ownership is more powerful. If competitors take ownership of their game, they will then assume ownership within the team.  

Before each season, define your role and ask them what feedback they want from you…Allow them to pack their own bags, schedule their additional practice and free-time. Basically after the initial conversation, don’t intervene unless their safety or health is concerned.

4. Don’t call, email, or text:

I had an awful bachelor party. I even told my wife how disappointing it was, (it was even in Vegas). She actually emailed the guys in my party after the fact. Ouch, I was embarrassed. The fact was I didn’t communicate well enough before the party…

She fought my own battle…That’s not how we help ourselves or help your kid with mental toughness. 

Kids develop strength by overcoming the adversity they face. They need to be able to communicate with coach and other players, but if we don’t allow them to use their own voice, then they won’t face their fear and fear wins.

Most coach-athlete problems are a result of a lack of communication anyway.

5. Don’t talk about other players, coach, or refs:  

Sports is about winning, but it is also about losing and getting better.

Losing sucks, but it isn’t fatal.

We help build mental toughness and resilience by allowing them to experience the setbacks and the adversity. If we try to remove their ownership by blaming anything else other than their play, then we have actually given them an out, an excuse.

If there’s an out, they will use it and learn to use it. Bad calls, bad plays, and poor execution happen, but what’s the lesson when we blame, it wasn’t you, it was something else? Well, when they win, it has to be something else as well, can’t have it both ways.

My great uncle plays cards all the time, he says it in jest, “when I win, it’s a game of skill, if I lose, it’s a game of luck.”

help your kid with mental toughness



dr rob bell speakerDr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates coach executives and professional athletes and is based in Indianapolis. Some clients have included three winners on the PGA Tour, Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. 

Please Check out all the books and the mental toughness podcast - 15 Minutes of Mental Toughness as we interview expert athletes and coaches about Mental Strength and their Hinge Moment. New blog posts are published weekly. 

everyone gets a mental toughness trophyAs a parent of an athlete, there is really only one responsibility, support your son or daughter. Problem is many parents get the tonic of support mixed up with liquor of critiquing the game or practice. Tonic is fine, Liquor, never sicker…I wonder do kids lose the passion for sports or do their parents kill that passion with all the expectations, criticisms, and post-game rants?

I watch it after every game. Parents come over and immediately start talking about how they could have done this better, should have made this play, or performed a certain skill. I have made a conscious effort after each performance to do two things with my own kids.

1. Compliment their effort and tell them I love watching them play.

Believe me it is not always easy, but after having a conversation with my daughter, I will continue to stick to two things post-game. After listening and I watched a couple families do their thing after the game was over and tell their kid about not fouling, how to pass, when to dribble, proper shooting technique, moving their feet faster on defense, etc. I thought, holy crap, this is their first real game of basketball EVER! One parent went so far as to take his daughter out on the court and give her a lesson in boxing out the opponent to get the rebound.

2. ASK your child on how they want to be coached: 

I asked my daughter if she liked it when I have critiqued her play in the past. Again, she said, “No.” It felt like a fist to my face!

So, I changed… I merely referred to a couple of loose balls she dove for on the ground and how she hustled up and down the court each time on defense.  I never once talked about something she could have done better. I will leave that up to the coaches. I did tell her if she ever wants my opinion about anything I will give it to her, but she has to ask. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

dr rob bell mental toughness article. Coach Justin Dehmer holds Back-to-Back-to-Back State Championships and 3x Coach of the Year 2010, 2011, 2012. National Record 87 Game Winning Streak in 2011 ended in 2012 at 88. Contact   Twitter @1PitchWarrior