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How Hard Should Parents Push Children to be Competitive?

Some parents are criticized for being disinterested in their children’s activities, but is there a point when parents are too involved?

A recent story in High School Pep Rally tells of two young sisters who are competing in high level endurance events. The article is not as much a tribute to their accomplishments as it is a criticism of their parents for pushing them so hard. The two girls, Kaytlynn, 12, and Heather Welch, 10, recently ran a grueling 13-mile cross country race with Kaytlynn winning the women’s division and her younger sister coming in third. Reaching that level of competitive excellence, however, takes intense training. The criticism of the parents that followed has been harsh. The opinion of many appears to be that the parents are pushing them too hard – that it is too intense for such young children and could have a damaging effect on their young, developing bodies.

This is not the first time this type of criticism has been leveled at parents of young athletes competing at the top of their game. The parents and coaches of young olympic athletes often face much the same type of criticism.

What do you think? Is there a point when parents should back off and let kids just be kids, even if they have the potential to be exceptional young athletes?

Darcey Bailey November 12, 2012 at 02:08 PM
I think parents need to be supportive of their kids. It's not our job to be coaches or teach them the plays, etc. It's our job to be supportive and positive with them no matter what. The coaches will tell them what they do right and what they do wrong. If they make a mistake the coaches will teach them how to correct it. That's what they are there for. Parents punishing kids for mistakes they have made is just wrong in my opinion. Sometimes it can make the child MORE nervous and they end up messing up more. It amazes me to see parents berating their kids at sporting events. I tell my son Great job no matter what happened. If he tells me he messed up I ask him what the coach said and tell him that he just needs to listen to the coach but as a parent I still think he did amazing. These kids need confidence and people being positive with them. They have to learn to LOSE too. You don't want to lose, but they have to be able to lose with dignity and respect.
Gail Lane November 12, 2012 at 06:29 PM
I have mixed emotions on this one, having been a gymnast in my early years. I really don't see this as any different from any child being driven through a gift for gymnastics, dance, baseball or golf ... or even with an exceptional musical inclination or (dare we say it) beauty pagents! Extensive training definitely has some side effects in physical maturity but as long as an athlete trains correctly, these are generally minimalized by Mother Nature in her own time. As long as the child is committed to the sport, and not just the parent, I applaud them!
Sharon Swanepoel November 12, 2012 at 07:19 PM
This is kind of a difficult one for me. My stepson, Brad, was a very good soccer player and was MVP at LHS his senior year. His father got frustrated when socializing began to take priority, but he did back off and not pressure him too much. Since then, there were times when Brad himself has said he wished his dad hadn't. He probably missed an opportunity because of it and I think he knows it. So what do you do?

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