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Human Performance Blog

The Expert Sport Parent

The Sport Parent is an important dimension of the Coach-Athlete-Parent Triad.

A lot of focus is often placed on how to get athletes to perform at their best in training and in competition. Additionally, the skills needed to become an expert or elite level coach is constantly evaluated. What it takes to be an effective sport parent, or to raise an elite level athlete, that is, the dimension of the Expert Sport Parent is rarely addressed.

To develop Sport Parent Expertise there are 6 pillars from which the athlete stand upon. It is important that all sport parents are aware of what sport parent expertise is and how this kind of expertise is developed.


Are you an Expert Sport Parent? Ask yourself the following questions…

Do you provide appropriate opportunities and support for your athlete?

The sport parent role begins with the selection of appropriate sport opportunities and support for the athlete. Recognize what your child wants from the experience (recreational/competitive/elite) and also what you as a parent want from your childs’ experience is essential. From this awareness, expert sport parents are able to determine the appropriate activities and support; emotional, tangible, informational, that their athlete needs without challenging the parent-child relationship.


Is your parenting style helping to foster high performance habits in your athlete?

The Parenting style is useful in creating a healthy emotional climate for the youth athlete.


The original tri-fold of parenting styles included; Authoritarian, Authoritative and Permissive. The authoritative style has shown to help develop more mental toughness traits, however the Permissive style has also shown positive outcomes for more active children. Additionally, the integrity of the dual-parent style is also important. Even more consideration is made for awareness of the emotional climate that both parents create together, as they play off of each other.


How do you perform under the pressure of competition?

Tournaments and competitions are highly emotional experiences, not only for the participant, but for the viewer as well.


Almost, 1/3 of parents demonstrate ‘negative’ responses to competitive pressure. This is a result of levels of mirroring, shame and disappointment based on the athlete behavior, effort and/or performance. Expert parents are able to manage their emotions in these situations, practice emotional intelligence, and model effective self-management.


What is your relationship with the coach/other sport parents?

A healthy relationship with other parents can help with parental adjustment within the sport, during sport transitions and also be a buffer when dealing with athlete-athlete conflict.

Being able to present a united front with the coach, by keeping communication open, and professional, accepting/acknowledging the coach authority without undermining their leadership defines a healthy coach-parent relationship. Expert parents, are able to create and maintain these balances within their respective parent-coach and parent-parent relationships.


How are you adjusting to the demands of your athletes’ sport participation?

Sport participation can be very time consuming and many parents make sacrifices to help their young athletes achieve the goals they have set for themselves or give them every opportunity that they can for success. Many parents though, find conflict in work-family balance, spousal/significant other balance, and if multi-child homes; parent-child balance with the non-sport child. Expert Parents are able to manage their own needs during and following the childs' sport participation. If these balances are not addressed, as much as three years after a child has finished with sport, parents still have difficulty working to rectify them.


Are you adapting to your athletes sport growth?

As athletes move through the sampling, specialization, investment and retirement phases, so do parents.

The transition here can be the cause of much anxiety for parents as it represents a change in their role, moving further away from the center of the childs' experience and fostering more independence on the part of the athlete and the coach. Here, expert parents revisit the previous questions and adapt as well to their new roles, with awareness and emotional intelligence.


So are you an Expert Sport Parent?


The questions used in this article are based on the results of current research in the areas of Sport Performance, Youth Parenting, High Performance and Coaching. They are meant as a guide to help gain awareness and encourage deeper thought about the Sport Parent.



Ever wondered what more you could be doing to help your athlete?

Now that you have an idea of what it takes to become a Sport Parent Expert, take the initiative to learn how to increase your Sport Parent Expertise. The next step is to learn how to use the areas described and the answers to the questions to get the best out of yourself as a Sport Parent.


Check in with Dr.V for more information on this topic, article references and to sign up for Sport Parent Workshops and Seminars in your area.

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