A Parent’s Guide to Dealing with your High School Athlete


It’s almost time for fall sports to begin again, where your son or daughter may be taking the field again as a high school athlete, or maybe even taking the field for the first time as a high school athlete. The transition from “rec” or travel sports to high school sports is a big one, and many an athlete find the transition tough to adjust to. There may be another group that may find it even harder:


I am sure we have all sat through games when our kids were younger, rooting them on, and hoping for our child’s personal and team successes. I have too. Through these many years of watching, there are 12 observations that I have come across that will make watching your child’s games more enjoyable, and allow your child to grow and develop.

1) Grades…. Remember these are “student-athletes” not “athlete-students”, and keeping ones’ grades high should be at the top of any list. The chances of getting a college scholarship through good grades is a 1000 times more likely to happen that through athletics. At least the same amount of time should be put into homework compared to training.

2) The days of “trophies for everyone” are over…. Your child may not get to play all the time, or even at all. Kids will learn from these disappointments, learn how to deal with them, and become better for it. They WILL make mistakes. Everybody does. That leads to the third observation I have seen:

3) Don’t be afraid of demanding coaches…. Quick question: In your mind, think of the three favorite teachers you have ever had. Done? Ok, think of the three most demanding teachers you have ever had. My bet is that at least two of the three favorites are the same. Coaches are going to be demanding. They should be. Coaches are going to yell and scream. It’s in a coaches demeanor to do that (within reason of course). Your kids can handle demanding coaches. They are stronger than you think.

4) The coach is the coach…. Too many parents think they are coaches. If an athlete is coached to do a certain skill by his or her coach, it’s the same way he or she should practice it at home. Find out how the coach is teaching a certain drill, and use THAT way to practice at home. In a kid’s mind, there may be a “Too many Chiefs, and not enough Indians” dynamic going on in his or her head. Be consistent when helping your child. Your first question you should ask as a parent when wanting to help your child is: How is coach teaching it?

5) High school sports are serious, but it isn’t the biggest deal in the world…. One of the worst offenses I have seen. Share in your child’s successes, both personal and team wise. Make sure they know how to handle defeat and disappointment. Don’t allow them to get too high after a win, or too low after a loss. Try to keep them as “flatlined” as possible. Remember, it is your CHILD’S dreams, not YOURS as a parent.

6) Keep your expectations realistic…. Don’t “set the bar” as far as what you expect from your child. There are many, many cases of star athletes in grade school and middle school that don’t get any better when they are in high school. There are just as many cases of athletes that all of a sudden have a growth spurt, or refine their skills and become great contributors to their high school teams. Just because a school may have a great freshman class, doesn’t mean they will all be stars in the next four years.

7) Be realistic about your child’s ability…. Not every child is going to go to Duke to play basketball, Michigan to play football, Stanford to play baseball, or UCLA or Penn State to play volleyball. Your child probably already knows what he or she did wrong (the coaches have already told them), so unless he or she asks, leave it alone. There is a huge difference between “discussing” with your child, and “pushing” your child. Learn to know the difference.

8) Stay out of the way, except for one situation…. Remember, it is what your child has chosen to do. It is THEIR dream, not YOURS. Let them choose how much they train, how much they lift, and how much they run. You can “encourage”, but the final decision should be the child’s. There is only one exception, and that is when the issue of quitting a team comes up. Quitting is not an option. Your child will be much better off learning how to overcome the adversity, than just throwing in the towel when things don’t go his or her way.

9) Don’t approach the coach with questions, have your child do it…. How many of you know of parents that call the coach when things aren’t going their child’s way? Ok, everyone put your hands down. We all know of someone. Your kids are at the age where they should be approaching the coach themselves. Always wait a day or two to talk to a coach and allow some time to calm down, so that there can be a clear discussion between player and coach. Your child with have to deal with talking to adults in life, weather it be a boss, teacher, or anyone else of authority. Why not start now?

10) Know the difference between pain and injury…. Everyone has heard the phrase “no pain, no gain”. Don’t believe it. There are always going to be bumps and bruises, that is a given, especially the day after a game. If a “pain” lingers on for more than a few days, go get your child checked out. He or she is not only hurting the team by playing injured, but also risking his or her future health.

11) Behave yourself during the game…. There is nothing more embarrassing than seeing a parent yelling and screaming, cheering for only his or her kid, and generally making a fool out of him or herself. Cheer for your TEAM, not just your child. Form relationships with the other parents. If you can’t act with some class and dignity, then stay home. Your child will appreciate you not being singled out for being a jerk.

12) Savor every moment…. Four years of high school sports go by quick. It’s the kind of thing that your child and you will enjoy sharing in the future. Make it enjoyable for both you and your child. Before you know it, he or she will be gone.

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