KELSEY CROUSE: Overbearing sports parents cause long term effects for child

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Growing up as a Navy brat, my family moved to a different housing unit or state every two to three years. Because of this, my parents always signed us up for sports so we would make friends quickly.

For a good part of the year my father would be on deployment. Almost all of my childhood memories of him are coaching my T-ball, soccer, softball, and hockey teams.

My parents were always supportive of any sport we wanted to try. My dad had one rule: if you joined a team you had to stay on the team and give it your all until the end of the season. My dad always expected more out of his own kids than he did anyone else on the team. He was extremely hard on us.

While attending baseball and softball last weekend I witnessed a parent scolding her child for developing the yips in the last inning of the game. This is a problem seen all over the United States. Parents put pressure on their children to win, to be the best. What they may not understand is that this pressure is hurting their children and not helping them.

Centerfielder and first basemen Mickey “The Mick” Mantle, who played for the New York Yankees from 1951 through 1968, experienced the repercussion of an overbearing sports parent.  Mantle in a 1970 television interview shared how he wet the bed until he was 16. He later developed emotional problems that led him to become an alcoholic. He couldn’t handle the inappropriate amount of pressure placed on his shoulders. Mantle succeeded and became a professional athlete, but the chance of this happening for most athletes is next to none.

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body of college sports, a 2010 study showed that only about 3 percent of high school male athletes go on to play in college, and less than .05 percent go on to play in a pro league. Only 3.3 percent of female high school athletes play a sport in college and .02 percent make it to a pro league.

The main cause of psychological abuse by sports parents is hope that their son or daughter will earn a sports scholarship to lessen the financial strain that accompanies a good education.

Children look to their parents for guidance, approval, and comfort. Negative criticism will only hurt the child down the line.

Parents are not the only ones who take the importance of sportsmanship out of the game and only focus on winning and the player’s faults. Coaches have belittled, injured, and beaten their players in order to win a game.

In 2005, T-ball coach Mark R. Downs, Jr., 27, of Dunbar, Pa., paid some of his players to hit an autistic teammate over the head so he wouldn’t have to play him. This was a T-Ball team where the kids sit in the outfield and pick grass or make pictures in the dirt with their cleats. Sports are supposed to be fun, especially summer leagues.

Franck Smoll, a professor at the University of Washington and a sports psychologist, believes that the biggest problem in youth sport is over-involved parents. He says that the parents may not ever realize the amount of pressure they are putting on their child because they may be in a state of perpetual denial.

Parents should be involved in their child’s activities and help them reach their full potential. They also need to be aware of the line between helping and hurting.

Over the years my dad started to loosen his grip and became a supportive “its just a game” parent. I am grateful this change happened while I was still playing sports. It made for a better experience and happier memories of my time with my dad. He expected me to do my best. If my best was five strikeouts and one bunt, then he was proud.

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