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Enabling Young Athletes Can Lead to Big Problems

By Dr. Chris Stankovich


Parents who regularly allow their child to “cut corners” when it comes to youth sport participation may be setting their child up for bigger, lifelong issues down the road. When kids sign up to play youth sports, it is important that parents talk to them early and often about the responsibilities that come with being an athlete. For example, young athletes are required to attend many practices, be on time and prepared for games, and even participate in off-season training and conditioning. While these expectations might be tough to meet at times, it is important kids realize that personal responsibility is a big thing when it comes to sports – and life – success. Likewise, parents must be sure to prioritize responsibly so they can role-model to their kids the importance of commitment.

Parents who enable, or allow their kids to do what they want without any consequence, create an environment that is often counter-productive when it comes to athletic success. When kids sign up for sports teams, they need to commit to being a team player, meaning they must prioritize their schedule in a way that allows them to be on time for practices and games, and follow through on all team requirements. Since kids don’t always realize the importance of team commitment, it is imperative parents role-model appropriate team responsibility, and enforce family consequences for when their child fails to live up to her responsibilities.

Parents should not view team commitment and responsibility as something punitive, but rather a healthy way to get the most out of the athletic experience. By being on-time and prepared for practices and games, and making sure to follow through on all team expectations, kids learn the importance of commitment. Enabling kids at an early age by allowing them to do what they want can be the start of a “slippery slope” for future problems. For example, when kids are not held to a reasonable standard for the behaviors, they are more likely to devalue academics and studying, as well responsibilities associated with their future career.

Raise the bar when it comes to developing your child – this means set goals together and hold your child responsible for putting effort toward reaching the goals. Be sure to make it a point how important the “little things” are, like simply being prepared before each practice and game.