International Mental Game Coaching AssociationIMGCA official website
Member Login

IMGCA Article - Parents and Sports


77 Mistakes Sports Parents Make With Their Kids

Don't Fall Into These Sports Parenting Traps

Bill Cole, MS, MA

How is your sports relationship with your child? Are you supporting your child in their sport the way they need to be nurtured? Do you understand your child's sport experience? Do you create an environment that helps develop your child through their sport career? Do you maintain processes and systems that encourage peak performance from your child in their sports competitions?

As President of The International Mental Game Coaching Association I certify coaches, coach kids and adults and consult to parents, coaches and officials. I continually hear about parents who make numerous mistakes in an effort to help their child navigate the world of sport in their desire to achieve success. I've been coaching for over 30 years and have seen these issues up close and personal.

Take a look at these common mistakes parents make with their child's sports experiences. How many of these would your child say you make? How many of these can you avoid making?

Mistakes Parents Make With Their Kids In The World Of Sport

  1. Lecturing their child about the sport's techniques and strategies when they never played the sport, or played at a low level.

  2. Not understanding the culture, rules and expectations in their child's sport.

  3. Not respecting individual differences in how their child prepares for competition, and demanding that their child prepare "one way" or "their way".

  4. Taking it as personal criticism when their child makes requests for them to modify their parenting behavior.

  5. Criticizing, judging or lecturing their child about their performance under pressure when they themselves have never competed, or competed at a low level, and do not understand the pressures of competition.

  6. Failing to create a supportive, organized environment the day of competitions.

  7. Living vicariously through their child's sport experiences.

  8. Forcing their child to play the sports they played.

  9. Trying to coach their child when they are not a qualified coach.

  10. Blurring the lines between being a coach and being a parent for their child.

  11. Poor time management processes that hurry and overwhelm their child.

  12. Making negative comments about other children, parents or coaches.

  13. Excessively bragging about their child.

  14. Unrealistically overblown assessment of their child's talent.

  15. Treating officials and staff with less than full respect.

  16. Rushing their child's early sport technique development, when that should be the slowest, most careful period of all, to gain solid fundamentals that last a lifetime, which don't need to be corrected later in their career.

  17. Taking their child's sport experience too seriously, and not mixing in the appropriate levels of fun and recreation.

  18. Placing their child into sports situations where they can't succeed.

  19. Not understanding the different cultures and performance requirements of team sports versus individual sports.

  20. Creating guilt and pressure to perform in their child by highlighting how many sacrifices they have made for their child, and much money they have spent on the sport.

  21. Placing unwanted pressure on their child by framing competitions as being "Must win", "Can't lose", "An important event", "Critical competition", and the like.

  22. Simultaneously having too many teachers, coaches, trainers who conflict in approach and technique, thereby confusing their child.

  23. Contradicting the advice and guidance of their child's teachers, trainers and coaches, leading to the child being confused and being torn in loyalties.

  24. Pushing their child into a sport or competition before they are ready.

  25. Expecting higher performances under pressure from their child than they themselves can bring forth in their jobs, sports or other activities.

  26. Making love and affection conditional on their child's sports success.

  27. Failing to realize when their child is in developmental sports phases versus competitive sports phases.

  28. Failing to see the value of sports lessons as preparation for life itself.

  29. Expecting their child to be a higher achiever in sports than they were.

  30. Making sports bigger and more important than anything else in their child's life.

  31. Allowing their child to specialize in one sport at too young an age.

  32. Making their child inappropriately play injured or sick.

  33. Not realizing that their child can learn valuable sport and life lessons even when they lose.

  34. Allowing their child to get away with poor behavior by making excuses for it, or by failing to exert parental standards.

  35. Failing to support the behavior and communication guidelines of teachers and coaches.

  36. Labeling their child a choker, mental case or other derogatory name.

  37. Failing to create the proper practice opportunities for their child.

  38. Allowing their child to be bullied or picked on.

  39. Thinking that all sports technique is equal-not knowing that some sports (golf and tennis to name two) are extremely complex and detailed, and that their child should master these high-technique sports as easily as others.

  40. Allowing or encouraging their child to coach hop-to continually go from teacher to teacher in search of the perfect teacher/coach or for someone who does not challenge them or their child.

  41. Failing to match their child's sport choice to their temperament, sensibilities, talents and values.

  42. Viewing their child's worries and nerves before a contest as a sign that they are not mentally prepared, not thinking positively, or not confident.

  43. Projecting their own insecurities, worries and nervousness about their child's performance onto their child, especially before a competition.

  44. Allowing their child to be around negative people in the sport world.

  45. Failing to appreciate the complexity, difficulty and challenge of their child's sport, and thereby minimizing their child's efforts.

  46. Minimizing, negating and explaining away the stress and anxiety their child feels around the pressures of competition.

  47. Thinking their child's sport looks easy, and wondering or asking why their child does not perform at a higher level.

  48. Failing to give their child time breaks from the sport and competition, so they can recharge their batteries.

  49. Over-programming their child each day with school, homework, extracurricular activities, sports and practice to where they can't be a kid and just have fun.

  50. Planning on their child winning a college sports scholarship and getting back all the money they put into their child's sport development.

  51. Unrealistically expecting their child to become a pro, especially from a very young age.

  52. Calling their child a quitter when they want to stop sport participation, rather than realizing that their child may have good reasons to take a break or move into a different sport or activity, just as they the parent would have in their life.

  53. Comparing or favoring one child in the family to another, rather than seeing each child's sport experience and talents as unique.

  54. Criticizing or arguing with their child in public.

  55. Fighting relationship battles their child should handle in sport, thereby having their child lose out on valuable life lessons.

  56. Being a stage parent in sport.

  57. Telling personal sports stories and drawing conclusions from their days in competition that have no bearing on, or contradict their child's sport experiences.

  58. Over-analyzing, over-talking or over-preparing with their child before a competition.

  59. Announcing that "WE are playing an event", when only their CHILD is participating.

  60. Not allowing their child to own their sport experience, and thereby learn from their mistakes, and instead doing everything for their child.

  61. Placing pressure on their child by having unfounded expectations or by setting unrealistic goals.

  62. Expecting perfection in their child.

  63. Seeing what is lacking in their child, and not encouraging what is good.

  64. Expecting too much in performance from their child's newer skills.

  65. Pointing out nothing but their child's errors and mistakes in an effort to be helpful.

  66. Performing a post-competition analysis sooner than their child would like it.

  67. Asking "Did you win?" after a competition, rather than saying something that carries less pressure.

  68. Failing to listen and to allow their child to process their feelings after a difficult practice or stressful competition.

  69. Smothering their child, by hovering around every sport activity their child attends, from practices to training session to competitions (known as being a Helicopter Parent).

  70. Using the child's sport as leverage, or as a threat of punishment for poor performance in other activities.

  71. Behaving in a distractingly obviously emotional, negative or nervous manner from the sidelines where their child can view them during a competition.

  72. Expecting complete dedication in the sport from their child, who perhaps does NOT yet completely love the game.

  73. Yelling instructions and coaching comments to their child in the heat of competitive battle, thereby either distracting or confusing their child.

  74. Embarrassing their child by what they say or do at practices or competitions.

  75. Failing to support or respect the coaching staff.

  76. Displaying poor sportsmanship.

  77. Failing to be a role model for the behaviors they want their children to display.

You want the best for your child. One of the best ways to achieve this is by understanding these parenting traps, and by being personally aware of your behavior as a parent.

The world of sport has its own culture, behaviors and expectations and parents owe it to their child to understand the sports world in which their child spends time. Keep this list in mind and be aware of how you can best support your child in their sport experiences.

If you are a parent reading this, you clearly want to help your child improve their mental game. A complete mental training program includes motivation and goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training, breath control training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal, concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training, confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation training, momentum training, psych-out proofing and media training.

For a comprehensive overview of your child's mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies their complete mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take sports psychology assessment tool, visit:

We offer extensive resources with which to improve your entire mental game, for any sport or business application.

Copyright © 2006 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.

This article covers only one small part of the mental game. A complete mental training program includes motivation and goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training, breath control training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal, concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training, confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation training, momentum training, psych-out proofing and media training.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at

Article Source:

Return to The Parents and Sports Articles directory.

Procoach Systems International Association of Coaches Independent Book Publishers Association IMGCA

The International Mental Game Coaching Association
39116 Fremont Hub #1303
Fremont, CA 94538 United States
Phone: 408-705-8877

Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm PST. Closed weekends and holidays.
Private backrooms in the IMGCA membership and certification areas are open 24-7, 365 days a year.

The IMGCA name, design and related marks are trademarks of The International Mental Game Coaching Association.
© 2006- IMGCA. All rights reserved.
Use of this website signifies your agreement to the terms of use and privacy policy.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Policies Notice