The Challenge Of Sporting Parents

Parents in sport. Are they a blessing or a hindrance? The reality is, most parents are peaceable mums and dads who just mimic the way society expresses sport. The problem is some of our national sporting character is missing the target. If we understand the link between parents and sport more, we are more able to harness the power of mum and dad to help our young athletes enjoy and flourish in sport.

A sports coach may want to help a young person develop sporting character, but it is the influence of the parent who shapes a young person most. If sports teams wish to pursue glory, parents are one of their best assets.

Sport is escape.
Sport has long been used as an escape from the realities of the day-to-day. Roman emperors used gladiatorial games to distract their subjects from the realities of life and sport’s function in society was set – escapism. This is why it can be so hard for coaches and sports clubs to engage parents to reflect on their part in their child’s sporting participation. They are not there to think about their touchline behaviour, to consider how their character is shaping their child’s character and behaviour on and off the pitch. They are there to escape into the reality-altering state known as ‘watching my kid play sport’.

Sport is an escape, but a child’s voice can bring you back to earth with a bump. Sports clubs use the voices of children. Ask the children to write down how they want the adults to behave at sports events. Ask them what they find unhelpful and what helps them play better.  You will find that for many parents hearing their little darlings’ voices on this topic will help them be present and not let their mind and actions escape.

Sport is passion.
Let’s be honest, in our reserved British culture, nothing is better at creating an outward expression of passion than sport. Taking our fathers to the rowing finals at London 2012 was an eye-opener! It meant that I saw more passion and emotion from those two wonderful men as team GB won several golds than I had in my…

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