Happier Homes

Soccer Mums, Netball Dads, and How to Help Our Children Thrive

Published: 21 Oct 2023
Soccer mums, netball dads
Articles for the time-poor parent who just wants...


I don’t know how long I’d been doing it, but somewhere in the third quarter I realised that I’d lost all perspective. My eldest daughter was playing netball in a “high-stakes” game. (Every game feels like high-stakes when it’s your child playing for the win!) I was there, cheering for her, when I noticed I was behaving like I could see better with my one eye than the referee could with her two. As the game progressed and the pressure built (and my daughter’s team began losing ground on their opponents) I’d become more vocal about the adjudication of the game than the actual game itself. I was self-aware enough to notice I was offering unsolicited coaching tips to the young referees. And… some of the parents around me were noticing too.

It's not uncommon for parents to become deeply involved in their children's sporting activities… which is great, except that sometimes involvement lands at the point of overbearing. Why?

It’s simple on the surface. We love our kids and we want to see them triumph! It’s a thrill to see them compete and win. But there are other reasons too. The pressure might be rooted in personal regrets or unfulfilled dreams, or parents may want their children to have opportunities they didn't.

When it comes to kids’ sport, doing your best isn’t the point. We’re not raising Olympians. Hyper-competitiveness has no place in kids’ sports. They’re about something else:

  1. Relationships – this is a chance for kids to collaborate and make friendships, not enemies who must fail so our kids can succeed.
  2. Skill acquisition – developing capability happens naturally when competitive instincts and “success” outcomes are minimised and fun and practice (and lots of mistakes) are part of the process.

Prioritising their enjoyment and love for the activity and two things will happen (at least). First, they’ll like playing the game more. That’s great for their bodies, their brains, their social skills, their emotional equilibrium, and even their schoolwork. Second, you’ll enjoy it more too! Poor umpiring decisions can be shrugged off or chuckled at. Fumbles and missteps can be a learning step for the kids (without you being the coach who tries to fix everything), and no one needs to be yelled at or criticised.

Parents make significant sacrifices to support their children's participation in sports. They invest countless hours, money, and effort in their kids' athletic endeavours. The commitment is substantial, and it's not limited to just cheering from the sidelines. But that’s the point:

The sacrifice and commitment isn’t so the kids will be the best sportsperson ever. Every parent I’ve spoken to says “I just want my kids to be happy” or “I just want them to enjoy the game”.

In the face of a growing mental health crisis among young people, children's sports represent an untapped resource for supporting their mental health. While it's easy to get caught up in the pressure to succeed, it's important to remember that fostering a love for the activity, competence, and positive relationships are the real keys to success in the world of children's sports, for you and for them.

Want more?


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Episode #870 | White Line Fever


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