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Youth Sports Are Not a Free Babysitting Service

Dealing honestly with the time commitment issue.

Ford Video/Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports
Source: Ford Video/Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports

When children enter a sport program, their parents automatically take on some obligations. Some parents don’t understand this at first and are surprised to find what’s expected of them. Others never realize their responsibilities, or they refuse to accept them. Consequently, they miss opportunities to help their sons or daughters grow through sports.

Much of the joy of being a sport parent comes from watching one’s child during practices and competitions. Most young athletes also appreciate their parents' interest and attendance. (What youngster isn't boosted by looking up into the stands and seeing Mom and Dad in rapt attention?) But some parents show a complete lack of concern about youth sports, which is regrettable.

Can parents give their children some time?

To contribute to the success of a program, parents must be willing to commit themselves in many different ways. To begin, they need to decide how much time can be devoted to their children’s sport activities. It may involve driving kids to and from practice, going to games, meets, or matches, and assisting the coach. Many parents don’t realize how much time can be consumed by such activities. Some parents who expect sport programs to occupy their children's time and give them more time for themselves are shocked to find that they are now spending more time with their kids than before.

Conflicts arise when parents are very busy, yet are also interested and want to encourage their children. Thus, one challenge is to deal honestly with the time-commitment issue. Here are a few tips for doing this.

  • Make every effort to watch at least some games/meets/matches, and (if possible) attend some practices as well.
  • Never promise more time than you can actually deliver. Simply stated, don’t create situations where you have to apologize for breaking commitments.
  • Ask about your child’s sport experiences. Perhaps the easiest way to show interest and support is to engage in conversation, particularly after an exciting competition. For more information, see my Psychology Today blogs titled “How to Deal With the Joy of Victory” and “How to Deal With the Agony of Defeat.”

Sports offer children and adolescents many opportunities for personal growth and development. They also offer parents opportunities to interact with their children in ways that enrich their relationship. Here’s the bottom line: Parents should avoid the mistake of treating youth sports as a “free babysitter.”

Do you want to learn more about parenting young athletes?

The Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports is a research-based video that emphasizes skill development, achieving personal and team success, giving maximum effort, and having fun. To access the video, go to the Youth Enrichment in Sports website.