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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Little League Parent Syndrome

Post provided by Scott Smith, MD

I love youth sports. The benefits are many: fitness, social skills, competitive outlet, self esteem, life lessons. I have four very active children who I have been blessed to coach over the last 15 years. In fact I am currently coaching my 27th season of youth sports. I love every part of coaching the kids. However one aspect that can be tricky is the parents.

Parents who have unrealistic expectations or exaggerated opinions of their child's abilities can ruin the purpose of youth sports. Isn't PLAYING a sport supposed to be fun? That's always my goal: SAFE and FUN! I want my players to continue to play for many seasons and to establish fitness as one of their lifelong habits. Many children stop playing sports before the age of fourteen. They frequently site harsh words and negative input from parents and other family as the reason for stopping. It is all about perspective. In my opinion sports for the vast majority of participants are a fun outlet to test their physical boundaries and develop self esteem. Continual berating and pushing by parents will diminish the benefits from sports. Asking "did you win?" places importance on winning when that is rarely the kids top goal.

Psychologist have a term for the parent in the crowd that berates coaches, players, parents and officials: Little League Parent Syndrome. These parents are living through their child's athletic performance. They feel their child's needs are greater than all others. Instead of focusing on fun and assisting their child's performance, these parents focus on winning at all cost. This all too frequently results in diminished fun.

Parents need to remember the purpose of sport is not to get a scholarship. It is to have fun, be healthy and develop life skills.

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