Do NOT be an annoying parent – Part 2

This is the second article discussing the behavior of athletes’ parents. If you have not read the first article, access it HERE.

In the last article we were discussing a study (1) where athletes reported the behaviors they like and don’t like in relation to their parents’ attitude. Let’s continue in the same study, where the girls commented on the behaviors after the competitions.

After competitions

After competitions, athletes reported that they prefer when parents give positive and realistic feedback about the games. They also commented that they felt good when a parent of other athlete praised them. Athletes added that when criticisms are made, it should be done in private, not in front of teammates, etc. Athletes also responded that they appreciate honesty, for example, telling the truth after a bad game, rather than “lying” saying the performance was good.

Athletes can differentiate when the feedback is a fact or not. Lying about the performance or saying that it was a good game, when in fact it was not, is a bad strategy. Instead, parents should be realistic, if a game was bad, it’s okay to discuss it with the child. Parents should use this moment to teach their children how to deal with frustration and not to give up. Explaining that they should continue to work hard to make the next game better, and highlighting that there is no use in keep complaining about their poor performance.

Coaches’ opinion

Some researchers have investigated the perception of coaches in relation to parents (Gould and colleagues, 2008, 2016).

Gould and colleagues (2016) interviewed 14 of the most experienced and winner tennis coaches (U-10) in the US. Coaches raised seven challenges in working with parents.

  • Not understanding the stages of development: A clear example is a parent wanting his son to perform a certain technique, which this athlete is not yet able to perform, maybe because the child is too young and not strong enough. In addition to the physical aspects that need biological maturation, often parents do not understand this process, and encourage the child to skip phases, which compromises the athlete’s long-term development. For instance, the parent keep forcing the child to try a very advanced technique. Also, there are sports that have specific rules, limiting the use of certain techniques, so that children go through all the stages and do not enter an early specialization process (see more here)
  • Unrealistic expectations and pressure: Parents often create an expectation that doesn’t exist and end up putting a lot of pressure on athletes. For children and novices, the most important thing is to learn and have fun. When the pressure starts too early, that increases the chance of sports dropout. Another component that is common is the parent who has had a sporting career and places their own expectations on the child, often in a hope of fulfilling the expectations that he or she had as an athlete.
  • Parents focusing on results and comparison: For beginners, the focus should never be on the result. Mainly because the result depends on several factors, so parents should relax and let the children have fun. Still, parents should, at the same time, teach the importance of training and effort to obtain a positive result. Another issue is comparing athletes. This is terrible, especially in the beginning, when the kid just started to play the sport. Since each child has unique conditions, some will develop faster and others slower. Thus, many times this comparison can lead that athlete to lose motivation and consequently drop out.
  • Hyperinvolvement of parents in their child’s sport: DON’T BE AN ANNOYING PARENT! Let the childrin enjoy their sport, as well as respect the coach’s decisions! Some parents watch every single practice, go to ALL tournments and even take their child to the bathroom if they could. This generates a hyperdependence that in the long term will negatively affect sports development.
  • Inefficient communication between child and parent: Talking to the kid-athlete about what is happening is essential, mainly because the parent can better understand the whole process and can help more efficiently. Not to mention the logistics, talking about when the next game is, what should be brought (clothing, food, money etc), what time, how registration works, among many others. Coaches feel that many parents are oblivous to what is going on, and certainly this is an issue.
  • Lack of understanding of the modality/category by the father: Often parents demand things from their children that in the modality in question cannot even be done. For example in the case of collective sports, in newer categories there are some rules that make substitutions mandatory, to make sure that all registered children can play in the championship. When the parent does not understand these rules, he may want to complain to the child or coach for reasons of lack of understanding of the mechanics of competition.
  • Lack of commitment to the child’s sport: Those are parents who never watched a single game, and who often put their children in sports just to have free time away from their children. The child will be frustrated and may lose motivation for the sport in general, because the athletes realize that the parent simply does not care about what they are doing. Often, these parents destroy a potential brilliant career of an athlete. Parents play a fundamental role in the career development of their kids. When parents are not there (either physically or emotionally), the chances of drop out hugely increases.


In this article we brought some studies that reflect the challenge of being an athlete’s parent! The biggest take away is that the ideal behavior is a moderate behavior, that is, being involved but not too much involved! It looks simple, but the struggle is real!

Moral of the story, don’t let anyone fool you and follow SciTraining.


1.         Knight CJ, Neely KC, Holt NL. Parental behaviors in team sports: How do female athletes want parents to behave? Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. 2011;23(1):76–92.

2.         Tamminen KA, Poucher ZA, Povilaitis V. The car ride home: An interpretive examination of parent-athlete sport conversations. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology. 2017;6(4):325–39.

3.         Gould D, Lauer L, Rolo C, Jannes C, Pennisi N. The role of parents in tennis success: Focus group interviews with junior coaches. Sport Psychologist. 2008;22(1):18–37.

4.         Gould D, Pierce S, Wright EM, Lauer L, Nalepa J. Examining expert coaches’ views of parent roles in 10-and-under tennis. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology. 2016;5(2):89–106.

Leave a Reply