How to Accidently Ruin Your Relationship with Your Young Athlete

When children enter the world of youth sports they unwittingly add one more opportunity for themselves to be judged, evaluated, and corrected. However, it is unlikely any of them thought about this prior to wanting to play. They sign up for sports to have fun, enjoy their friends, learn new skills, and challenge themselves through competition. They quickly learn that organized sport is all about being measured against some standard.

Consider the average day of any child, age 5 to 18. He or she is evaluated and judged by teachers at school for their work, by friends for their clothing, by coaches and teammates for their performance, and then they arrive home to be once again judged by their parents for a multitude of performance and behavioral issues. It's a world filled with the evaluating, and sometimes it feels like the criticism, complaining, and condemning is all there is.

Parents have a responsibility to guide, redirect, and even correct the misguided choices of their children. However, the three fastest ways to ruin your relationship with your child is to spend your precious time together criticizing, complaining, and condemning especially about their athletic performance. More than anything else your athlete wants your approval, unconditional love, and total acceptance. If your approval, acceptance, and love appear to be attached to your child's performance and your expectations, the depth of your relationship will be jeopardized, if not right away, in the future.

There is an alternative, and the results are amazingly positive. Use this instead!

Encourage with affirmations, educate with good questions, and edify with words of praise. These are three activities that build people up to become more of what they were meant to be. Each of these three actions sends a message of hope by implying you are excellent, you are intelligent, and you are worthy of praise. Most of all, when parents encourage the spirit, educate the mind with life lessons, and edify (build up) the character of their athletes, they are saying I believe in you. This becomes the foundation of athletic performance as well as close relationships for years to come.

Nothing is more important than your relationship with your child. Not a game, nor a season, nor a scholarship. Treat it like gold so that it is built to last.

Your assignment:


Your goal is to use each of the three at least once every day. To help yourself monitor your progress, place three quarters in a pocket on your left side each morning. Each time you encourage, educate, or edify your child during the day, move one of the quarters from a left-hand pocket to a right-hand pocket. By the end of the day, all the quarters should be transferred. As you improve your skills, increase the number of quarters!

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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