9 Reminders If You’re a Stressed Out Parent of an Athlete

Youth sports are supposed to be fun but stressful situations are inevitable. Here are nine reminders to ease your mind if you’re a sports parent.

1. Your Child Will Most Likely Not Be a Professional Athlete

26% of parents believe their child could play professional sports but only 0.000001% of professional athletes become elite athletes, such as Lebron, Tom Brady or Serena Williams. There is a better chance of becoming a d-league player on a basketball team, the guy on the practice squad or the 87th ranked female tennis player. These players are great professionals as well, but they often live overseas or travel 30-40 weeks out of the year, and simply don’t make millions of dollars.

Even if your child becomes a professional athlete, they aren’t going to be one for very long. It’s a small portion of their life and it’s often finished by 30 or 35-years-old. Once it’s over they will rely on the relationships and skills they’ve developed outside of their actual sports talent.

As parents, after every championship or setback, just focus on the moment and not on their career. Remember this fact even if a coach tells you how good they are and “could be” with their coaching and program.

2. They Are Most Likely Not Getting a Full Division I Scholarship

Only 2% of high-schools athletes play Division I sports. (I work with many D-I athletes so this is tough for me to comprehend because my sample is skewed).

The only men’s sports that offer full-tuition scholarships are basketball and football. Women’s sports with full-tuition scholarships are tennis, gymnastics, basketball and volleyball.

All other D-I sports receive monies based upon the athletic program and coaches discretion. Partial scholarships at 60 percent, 30 percent or less are the norm.

Receiving a letter about recruitment does not mean your child is being recruited. Schools send hundreds of letters. A player is not getting recruited until one of the coaches contacts them personally.

Knowing the facts about D1 scholarships, it’s up to families to decide if the sacrifices, travel, expenses, and commitment are worth it.

Here’s more information if you want to learn how your child can earn an athletic scholarship.

3. Look At Division II, III and NAIA

If your child loves their sport and has the passion to play and practice in college, the biggest question becomes – will they receive PT?

PT = Playing Time – or the currency that every athlete wants to spend.

I know several athletes who were “good enough” to play the top level of collegiate sports, and they chose to go that path instead of going someplace where they could actually play and contribute on a consistent basis.

As a parent, do you really want them to play Division I? It is another full-time job — 6 a.m. weights, classes from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., practice until 6 p.m., study and dinner finished by 11 p.m. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

These different levels of collegiate play are highly competitive and are excellent options to explore. Great academics + college experience = Winning as a Parent of an Athlete. These other levels are a part-time job compared to the full-time job of Division I.

Scholarships are augmented through academic monies, so your child carrying a 3.7 GPA can receive grant-in-aid from both athletic and academic.

4. You Can’t Want It More Than Them

“The will to prepare has to be greater than the will to win.” – Bobby Knight

Passion is the pre-requisite for achieving anything great in life. As bad as you may want it for them, if they don’t take ownership and want it themselves, then the struggle will be real.

Those that have passion often don’t have to be asked to practice, nagged to work on something or coerced into playing.

There’s a good saying that goes along the lines of, “it’s tough to be driven when you’re being driven.”

They are the ones that have to want it.

Conversations need to take place to determine their goals, how you can help and what they don’t want from you.

5. Ride the Carousel, Not the Emotional Roller Coaster

There is a funny saying on tour amongst caddies about how their player performed. When it’s good, it’s “WE shot 67” or “HE shot 75″ if he played poorly.

If you treat every performance as life and death, then you’re on the roller coaster of emotions and you’ll be dead!

Vicarious parents live through their child, whereas supportive parents live with their child.

Your role as a parent of an athlete is to provide balance, stability and support in their life. You must remain detached from outcomes. If you get caught up in the drama or results of winning and losing, then you can’t remain level-headed.

The carousel is not much fun, but it’s the only ride that you should do as a parent.

6. Body Language Doesn’t Talk, It Screams

In sports, we see positive and negative body language all of the time. But, are you aware of your own body language as a parent?

Since they were little they watched for your reaction in the crowd. They saw you slumping in your chair, looking at your phone, or throwing your hands up in disgust.

Your own body language spoke so loud, they didn’t even need to hear what we were saying.

Negative body language does not show that we care or are passionate, it communicates that we are not confident.

We are signaling that we do not have faith in our own child or that they can turn it around and make a good play.

Your own body language must ride the carousel as well. It must be confident and supportive. Head up, clapping or cheering and if they do look, always a thumbs up!

7. Do Not Go Back to the Cook

When dining out, how many times have you returned a dish and told the cook, “This is how you prepare shrimps and grits?” Probably never, right?

So why do we feel that we can go talk to the coach about our son and daughter or their coaching style or type of plays?

Parents yell, coach from the stands, complain, even write anonymous emails to the administration or other parents. I’m here to let you know to stop it.

If your own son or daughter wants to develop the skill of communication and ownership, then it is their responsibility to talk to the coach about playing time on their own. Role-play with them all you want but it is ultimately up to them.

8. Talk About All Pressure Situations Here

Coach Jeff Van Gundy said, “We talk about all pressure situations in non-pressure environments.”

He didn’t want the team or coaches to come up with a last second defense or shot in the moment. They had already discussed all of those situations the evening before. So, when those pressure moments hit, they already had a plan in place.

There are good times to provide feedback and there are not good times. During the car ride home is not the time to offer unsolicited advice. We need to set up times when we are all cool, calm, and collected that we discuss all emotionally charged discussions.

9. It’s Not Who Gets There First, It’s Who Can Get There and Stay There

The best twelve-year-olds in the nation right now (pick the sport) should be the best 14-year olds, 18-year olds, become the star in college and win an Olympic gold medal or professional championship. Right?

It happens, but rarely. It is rare because there are so many factors when it comes to long-term success that we neglect the long-term and only focus on the short-term.

We look at the short-term development with a microscope and speculate into the future with a telescope. There will be many challenges and losses and failures along the way. If we don’t allow them to experience these setbacks, then we hinder their eventual progress as an athlete and person.

It’s only having gone through these difficult times that produces our character. Besides, it’s not about the setback, it’s about the comeback. Sports teach whatever we want it to teach, so as a parent of an athlete, are we only focused on what our child can get out of the sport, or do we care more about all of the lessons that he/she can learn from the sport?

Leadership, creativity, effort, passion, confidence, teamwork, communication, perseverance, mental toughness, focus, letting go of mistakes, handling conflict, overcoming obstacles, and being in the zone are all skills that will last way beyond when their sports career is over.

We need to trust the process when it comes to development as a person.

Dr. Rob Bell is a sports psychology coach. His company, DRB & Associates, is based in Indianapolis. Some clients have included the University of Notre Dame, Marriott and Walgreens. Visit his website and check out his most recent book on mental toughness, called Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness.

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