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By Ken Reed

There are several good organizations working to change the culture of youth sports in a positive manner.  My favorite is probably Positive Coaching Alliance.  Led by founder Jim Thompson, PCA has been making a positive impact on the culture of youth sports for more than 20 years.
 
Another of my favorite youth sports organizations is TrueSport.org.  While not as well known as Positive Coaching Alliance, they’ve developed a lot of tools to help young athletes, and the adults that guide them, positively traverse the youth sports landscape.  
 
One recent article I read from TrueSport really hit home.  It was titled, “Is Your Overparenting Ruining Your Athlete’s Experience?”
 
Sadly, for too many kids across the country, the answer to that question is “Yes.”
 
“Overparenting has become an increasingly common occurrence within out-of-school settings, such as youth sports.  Many program providers are challenged to find ways to engage those who overparent in ways that build positive relationships, while also supporting the needs of youth athletes,” says Clemson University’s Dr. Barry Garst, who has studied overparenting for the past five years alongside Dr. Ryan Gagnon.
 
Overparenting is the word used to describe “parents who are excessively involved in their child’s life, risk-averse, and abnormally preoccupied with their child’s well-being and success.  Children that are the victims of overparenting are more likely to develop anxiety and have low self-eficacy.
 
So, how should youth sports parents act? Research shows that the best sports parents tend to have the following approach to youth sports:
 
1.  Let the coaches coach (and let the child fail).
 
2.  Make youth sports fun.
 
3.  Encourage pick-up game sports participation (with no adults involved), not just organized youth sports.
 
4.  Think long-term.  Ask yourself if what you are trying to “fix” will actually effect your child’s long-term development in a more positive way than simply letting the situation play out on its own.
 
The TrueSport article concludes by saying:
 

By allowing children to safely be independent and to learn from their successes as well as their failures, parents foster coping skills and resilience in their children that become critical assets for successfully navigating life’s various challenges.”

Now that’s what youth sports should ultimately be all about.
 
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
 
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