Feeling Stressed? Here Are 3 Questions Every Sports Parent Needs to Answer

Parenting is tough—and all too often it seems that sports participation adds another level of hard.

Why is that?

Sports are supposed to provide a fun and healthy outlet for our kids—all while teaching them great life lessons.

Yet it’s becoming quite normal to spot emotionally-charged parents and discouraged athletes every time you attend sporting events. Unfortunately, S-T-R-E-S-S seems to be replacing JOY for all participating parties—athletes, parents, AND coaches.

So, what’s a parent to do?

A great starting point in MANAGING stress is answering these 3 questions.

  1. Where is the stress coming from?
  2. What is my stress mindset?
  3. How will I respond?

And then while thinking through them, appropriate action steps will emerge.

But let’s break each one down a bit.

1. Where Is Stress Coming From?

Sometimes—when in the midst of stress—we go into survival mode, not really THINKING about the reason we are there in the first place.

However, it’s crucial to identify the “why,” and then determine if it’s stress you have control over or not.

Here are some common stressors for youth sports parents:
  • Concern over the child’s performance
  • Worrying about the athlete’s emotions in the face of disappointment
  • Stressed about the possibility of an injury—whether it is a random accident or due to overuse
  • Overwhelmed by the time-commitment required—figuring out the logistics of getting your athlete to daily practices and weekly competitions
  • Financial burden put on an already tight budget

These are REAL reasons that parents feel the squeeze of sports-related stress.

Unfortunately, some are not really within our control and so worrying about them is very unproductive—and negatively impacts yours and your child’s experience.

For example, stressing about your child’s performance is really not helpful and does not change the outcome. Performance is 100% up to them.

On the flip side, worry over the financial strain that sports can create is difficult. But if it leads you to make informed budget decisions, then that is a more productive response to stress.

Once you have determined the source of stressed-out feelings, then it is helpful to look at this second question.

2. What Is My Stress Mindset?

In the book, “The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It,” Kelly McGonigal has a different view of stress. After looking at the research, she discovers that there is a mindset toward stress that allows a person to capitalize on its benefits, rather than succumb to its pressure.

So what is your mindset—and your athlete’s— toward stress? Do you view it as harmful or enhancing?

Check your thoughts against these 2 scenarios:
Mindset #1: Stress is harmful.
  • Depletes my health and vitality.
  • Debilitates my performance and productivity.
  • Inhibits my learning and growth.
  • The effects are negative and should be avoided.
Mindset #2: Stress is enhancing.
  • Enhances my performance and productivity.
  • Improves my health and vitality.
  • Facilitates my learning and growth.
  • The effects are positive and should be utilized.

There is no arguing that long-term, high-intensity stress has a debilitating impact on our health.

However, when faced with new stress do you AUTOMATICALLY view it as a terrible and unwelcome pressure or do you try to see it as a challenge that can grow you and your athlete?

3. How will I respond? 

Equipped with the answers to “why” you are stressed, and a good understanding of how your mindset will affect your reaction, it’s time to CHOOSE responses that will benefit you and your athlete.

Let’s take a second look at the everyday stressors and give examples of healthy responses:

Concern over the child’s performance: Recognize that pride is often at the root of this misplaced stress. Remind yourself that this sport is your child’s. His appetite to succeed has to come from him and not from you.

Worrying about the athlete’s emotions in the face of disappointment: Understand that facing a little bit of emotional turmoil is healthy for your child and will help her to grow in her ability to handle disappointment. Have a conversation with her about ways to cope and encourage her to view this from a positive mindset.

Stressed about the possibility of an injury—whether it is a random accident or due to overuse: Realize that worry over something that hasn’t happened only drains you of the ability to enjoy and fully support your athlete. Put your concerns to productive use, by ensuring your child has the proper equipment and rest that he needs.

Overwhelmed by the time-commitment required—figuring out the logistics of getting your athlete to daily practices and weekly competitions: Look at a new season as an opportunity to stay focused and organized as a family. Be creative in figuring out logistics. Set up a schedule with another family that you can carpool with.

Financial burden put on an already tight budget: This is a real concern for many families—especially since the costs of sports has gone up in recent years. The best case scenario is to understand BEFORE entering into a sport what will be involved cost-wise. If you find yourself already committed to a pricey sport, make use of second-hand equipment, borrowing from older athletes, carpooling to away games, and cutting back on other expenses during a season.

Moving Forward 

Life will never be stress-free.

Unfortunately, there will be periods where the stressors of life seem to be gobbling up your peace at a pace you can’t sustain.

During those times remember to:

  • Identify the source
  • Check your mindset
  • Choose a productive response

Was this helpful to you? Maybe you have a tip for our other parents. We would love to hear from you today.

Sport Family Coach at

Founder of Growing Champions for Life, David helps sports parents and coaches incorporate positivity and persistence into their communication with the young athletes who count on their encouragement and guidance. An eight-time national water skiing champion, five-time national record holder in water ski jumping, former World Championship U.S. Water Ski Team coach, and proud professional sports parent, he understands first-hand the challenges and rewards of competition. His extensive experience as a corporate leadership coach for Nextel, Sprint, Allstate, Balfour Beatty, The Villages and other companies provides David with unique insight into the skills needed to excel in sports, business and life. He brings an athlete's discipline, a coach's inspiration, and a parent's practical experience to his mission to grow not just champion young athletes, but holistically well-rounded individuals equipped for lifelong excellence.

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