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How To Be a Positive Parent of a Young Athlete

How to be a positive parent seems like an easy question to answer, right?

We're just weeks away from the start of our 26th competitive basketball season and we know tensions can run high during league games. We've seen an increase in 'incidents' at games over the last few years and they're not just specific to Gold Crown events. Remember the base-brawl over the summer at a local elementary school? Those types of incidents are increasing across the country. So how do coaches and parents set a positive example for the kids on the court and/or field? Melissa Gollick, a Sports Psychology Consultant at Children's Hospital Colorado, shares some tips below.

When I was playing sports as a kid, most parental involvement included things like bringing orange slices for half time or picking your kids up from practice on time . It was exciting to hear your parents’ voices in the crowd cheering for you and later giving accolades, regardless of the outcome or individual performance that day. It seems this role has taken a negative turn recently.


Not all parents have participated in this transformation, but some parents have been spotlighted for exhibiting out of control behaviors – displaying anger towards referees and opposing teams. It's important to set a good example of sportsmanship for your kids and even other parents.


Here are some tips for being a supportive and positive parent of an athlete:


  • Help your child understand winning isn’t everything. Make sure you help to emphasize the positive things they can gain from playing sports, such as camaraderie and self confidence.
  • Pay close attention to the influence your actions and words have on your child. Pressure and high expectations from parents can influence the satisfaction young athletes get out of their sport. Check in throughout the season and make sure you’re they are enjoying their sport.
  • Think before you act out in the stands or voice your opinion to a referee or member of the opposing team. Is this role model behavior?
  • If you do become upset over a referee’s call or a coaching decision, walk away from the event to cool down and collect your thoughts so your actions remain positive. Remember, you are not only a role model for your child, but you also represent his or her team as well.
  • From the start of the season, take the time to understand the coach’s philosophy about team rules, playtime, travel, practices, etc.
  • Respect the coach’s guidelines about boundaries, especially when it comes to communicating with him or her (email, texting, call limitations).
  • Follow the limits set by the coach in regards to coaching from the sidelines or sharing your opinion about a specific coaching decision.
  • Do not be afraid to ask appropriate questions at parent meetings or informational sessions. Chances are a couple other parents will benefit from your inquiry as well.

Written by: Melissa Gollick, Sport Psychology Consultant, Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Check out more sports articles for parents, and learn more about our Sports Medicine Center.