In the Game of Life: Parenting, Coaching, and the Pursuit of Sportsmanship

flaxenink
4 min readOct 23, 2023

Today, I had a conversation with another parent about her child’s sports experience, and it got me thinking — where are the coaches in all this? Youth sports are meant to be about learning and having fun, right? I understand that many youth recreation programs rely on parent volunteers, and I’ve been one of those parents myself. I’ve had the pleasure of coaching girls who were new to the game, and we made sure to rotate positions to help them learn the ropes.

No one likes to be stuck on the bench for an entire game without a chance to shine.

Now, I may ruffle some feathers with what I’m about to say, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while. Sometimes, it seems like parents can be just as competitive as the kids, and we’re talking about children under 10 here! They’re still growing and learning. Sure, they might have their off days, but they’re also here to be coached and developed. After all, they’re still kids.

I’ve heard countless stories about parent coaches favoring their own kids and hogging the spotlight.

I’ve even witnessed it myself. I’m not saying parents shouldn’t play their kids, but if a child isn’t mentally ready, it’s a good idea to give them a break and sub them out. It’s a delicate balance, and sometimes parents get carried away. I’ve learned that it’s best to discuss things calmly after the game, maybe 24 hours later when everyone’s had time to cool off.

Now, if your child is involved in competitive sports like travel ball or club teams, the stakes are even higher, and so are the emotions. As a former youth athlete who played club volleyball, I’ve seen it all. It’s a wild world out there! We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Watching our kids play t-ball or pee-wee soccer, or whatever sport they fancy. It’s all about skill-building and, of course, the legendary post-game snacks. Let’s be honest; sometimes it seems like the snacks steal the show! But as young athletes grow up, those post-game treats start to take a backseat.

As they continue to develop their sports skills, some kids play for the sheer love of the game. And…

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