How Parents’ Expectations Hurt Athletes’ Confidence

Youth Sports Psychology

How Expectations Create Pressure in Sports Kids

Youth coach Doug Donaldson says he knows intuitively when one of his young athletes feels pressured by a parent’s expectations. And he also knows the problems such well-meaning expectations can create in young athletes.

For example, one of his player’s mothers wants the child to play goalie in Lacrosse. But when the mother isn’t listening, the boy says he wants to play defense.

“It’s a real quandary for him. He’s looking for Mom and worrying about what Mom thinks.”

Donaldson says he can sense when his young athletes are driven to do something to meet their parents’ expectations. They feel pressured.

“This affects their passion and their interest,” he says.

How do parents’ and coaches’ expectations affect kids’ passion and interest?

Not in good ways. Not in ways that improve their mental game–or performance.

Parents and coaches need to understand the difference between helping kids strive for a goal and placing expectations on them…

When kids strive for a goal, it’s a continuous process and the goal is not set in stone.

When parents place expectations on kids, they’re pressuring them. Even the phrase, “Score 10 or more points today,” as well-meaning as it might be, will feel like pressure to kids. They’ll take on such expectations as their own.

Too often, parents and coaches demand perfection. They don’t want kids to make mistakes, and berate them for making mistakes.

If you ask the kids, they’ll tell you that these types of expectations cause them to feel afraid of making mistakes and failing. And, as we’ve told our readers over and over, this isn’t a good thing.

When kids develop fear of failure or fear of mistakes, they play tentatively. They don’t want to take risks. They play a controlled game and perform badly.

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2 thoughts on “How Parents’ Expectations Hurt Athletes’ Confidence”

  1. I just feel compelled to tell my story,
    I had just finished reading Dr, Cohn & Cohn book called the Ultimate Sports Parent just before my sons baseball season. The first day of practice I was keeping things light and giving high “5” too the boys. One child in particular was always uptight and could not let lose and have fun. Looking around at the parents I was trying to determine who was the parent. After practice the boy went home with his mom. She was quit during the whole practice. Because of the book I had a sence that the father may be inhibiting the young man from having fun. Sure enough the next practice proved this, the father was telling him how to through where to place his feet, how to swing the bat, it was very difficult as the coach to see a young man just so nervious that he just could not relax and have fun. The father did not understand what he was doing to that poor boy. Let the kids have fun first – we will work on the fundimentals after they start having fun. Because of Dr. Cohn’s book I have learned to make the game fun for my son and have become positive in reinforcing the good, my son goes to practice with a smile on his face and forgets what a PSP3 is used for! ha ha.

    I gave the book to that Dad to read, the next day at practice nothing changed. However, he did say I broke the first rule by micromanaging my son during practice. With a smile I said it takes time, I was in your shoes at one time.

  2. Also i saw an example. My team mate’s dad always makes comments and tries to tell the mistakes of my friend even if he doesn’t know much about volleyball. At first my friend got enough power to bear it but when her dad has owned it as an habit she got bored. Now she doesn’t tell the time and place of match to her dad, because she wants to get rid of all these ridiculous comments. The point that I wonder is : can parents’ expectations create a wall between parents and athletes?

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