Athletes, Communication, Parent, Sports, Stress, Success

Parent and Coach Influence on an Athlete's Success: To Push or Not Push

Happy child athletes

It is always great to see parents involved with their children’s activities. Not only do the children (younger children) love it when their parents watch and support their activities, many depend on it. However, there may come a time in an athlete’s development when the parent should take a step back and allow their child to develop more freely.

One challenge the parent may have in the development of their child’s sports activity, is not understanding the true emotional desires or feelings of the child. There are many cases where the child may not have the desire to participate in the activity. It is important that parents attempt to introduce several different activities, throughout the early years, to allow the child to determine what they like best.

As an athlete becomes more serious and involved with their sport, training will become more consistent and serious. They will learn many things that are important and pertinent to that sport which will allow them to grow both physically and emotionally. They will learn the specifics of every aspect of the sport – things that the parent may not be aware of or have knowledge of since they are not actively involved with the day to day training atmosphere.

There are many aspects of development in an athlete’s pursuit to succeed. The physical aspect is only one part of development. The emotional aspect is another part of development and can be considered the most important and sensitive. As an athlete grows in their sport and begins to participate in competitions, the emotional aspect intensifies. For many athletes, the competitive arena can be a scary one and it may take time for the athlete to understand how to deal with and control the stress in those environments.

parent with child athlete

I have many conversations with parents regarding their child’s development. One of the most common question and concern is the issue of ” to push or not to push”. This issue is different for every athlete but most common for athletes in early development. The parent should be able to recognize if their child is serious about the sport or activity and this will help guide whether to push the athlete for greater achievement.

I truly believe that a person will only be successful at something they love and desire. This comes from the heart, which is internal motivation The Motivation Factor. Athletes that have this type of attitude will usually have the motivation to push themselves without much outside influence. Throughout an athlete’s career, there will be ups and downs – there will be success and failure. There will be injuries and burn-out. All of which are factors that can influence an athletes drive to succeed. Patience is important to allow the athlete to work through all challenges. Achievement is a process that takes time, experience, and consistency.

woman stressed

When an athlete is pushed hard to train for success, it may result in the athlete having a negative attitude. Especially if there has been a series of failures. This could result in continued failure and eventually and end to a career. As an athlete grows in their sport and reaches higher levels of competition, pushing the athlete can be beneficial. All great athletes need a good push periodically. It is the younger, more inexperienced athlete that may be more sensitive to being “pushed” to succeed.

However, not pushing your athlete may result in a lack of motivation or cause a lack of interest. Younger students do not understand the process of commitment and sacrifice, so they must be guided through the process. It can be a sensitive issue and one that must be properly determined by the parent.

parents cheering runners

I believe that athletes should be pushed and encouraged in their pursuit of success. But how hard to push and when to push is the issue. Every child is different and what may be beneficial to one may not work for another. The parents and coaches need to recognize this in their children and students in order to positively affect the pursuit of their goals. We want the best for all children. Some will become Champions, and many will not, but every one of them are Stars!!

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Athletes, Communication, Stress, Success

The Stress and Emotional Turmoil on Elite Athletes: The Psychological Effect in Sports



It is exciting to see young children having desires to become someone great when they grow up. They have their sports idols and hero’s, and they want to be like them someday. It is a dream for young children, and although most grow out of that dream as they age, many others stick with it and have an opportunity to reach that dream. And how exciting it is to achieve a childhood dream. However, there are many consequences when someone reaches success. Many of these consequences are positive and exciting, but there are others that are negative and can be devastating.

For an athlete to reach the highest levels in their sport, training and commitment becomes very intense. Not only is it a great commitment on part of the athlete, but for the coaches as well. The psychological effects can be intense and can last throughout their career.

When a high-level status is achieved, the athlete should feel a great sense of success. It has usually taken many years of hard work to reach that status and only a very few ever get that far in their career. But what is hidden from the public in many cases is the untold stories of how these athletes achieved their success.

lacrosse-winner     We see great athletes perform at the highest levels, such as professional sports and the Olympic Games. We see their triumphs and excitement when success is achieved, and we also see the disappointments when success is not achieved. It truly is an emotional roller coaster for the athletes.

Reaching the pinnacle of success has its challenges and they can come from many different sources. We see it not only in athletics, but in other industries as well – entertainment and business for example.  No matter the industry, all people in the pursuit of success and achievement will have barriers to cross and stress to overcome.  Each individual has developed their own means of dealing with this stress, and it is imperative it is dealt with in a positive way as to eliminate or control its effect (Stress in Sports).

Stress anim

When success is achieved, there becomes a high level of expectancy to maintain that success. It may come from the parent, coach, friend, media and more. This expectancy increases stress levels that can have lifelong effects.  An athlete will not always win and the emotional effects when the “win” does not occur can be difficult for some to manage, especially if there are extreme external pressures to succeed.

There is much talk in the sports industry recently about how athletes are treated in their training environments. The United States Olympic Committee and related Sports Governing Bodies have increased their awareness and policies for Athlete Safety. This pertains to both physical and emotional issues. Coaches are being held accountable, now more than ever, for the mistreatment of athletes.

While there is a program in place to regulate coach’s behavior in amateur sports, there is not one in place for many of the youth sporting leagues. This may include youth football, baseball, soccer, and more. Many of the coaches volunteer their services and are often a parent of a participant. While there are some basic rules and guidelines, there are no consequences in the event of poor treatment of the students (Respect in Sports). In these environments, the parent plays a key role in whether the atmosphere in training and competition is positive or negative.

Failure Depression pic       I have not only heard of tragic stories of abuse but have seen it occur throughout my years as a competitive athlete. Emotional abuse is the most common and has the longest lasting effect. There are many athletes who have developed serious eating disorders due to the demands and abuse by coaches. Many gyms have their students weigh-in each day and are required to maintain a particular weight (in my opinion, this should be eliminated in all programs). I’ve heard stories of coaches calling students “fat” among other negative comments. These athletes are typically young, and these comments and style of treatment are devastating!! Other comments I have heard are “worthless”, “loser”, and “lazy”. This is all bad!!  Not only does this behavior destroy a young person’s self-esteem, but it may become a horrible memory their entire life.

Another factor that has been notorious in crushing the emotions of athletes is the media. The media is certainly a “double-edged sword”. It is needed and extremely instrumental in building awareness and assisting in the successful development of athletes. It is the media that catapults a person to national and international recognition. It has made many people wealthy due to this recognition. In many cases, people and companies depend on the media for success.

sports reporter

However, it is unbelievable how these reporters can be so cruel at times. We have seen how the media will depict an athlete or team for success and raise their status to guaranteed success – all prior to a scheduled event. This is great for the athlete or team in building support, but at the same time, increases stress for public expectations.

We have seen Olympic athletes promoted by the media prior to the competitive event as a sure “Win”. They put the athlete on a pedestal for expected success. Then, if the athlete does not meet those expectations the tables turn and then viewed as a great disappointment by the media and other social outlets. It is clear that many in the media world do not completely understand all the factors that go into play when considering ultimate success. And it is also clear that the media (in many cases) does not care about a person’s emotional state or consequences.

I have personally experienced great support from the media and I am truly grateful for that support. However, even though it has rarely happened, I have also experienced negative support from the media. Negative circumstances in one’s life has a much stronger and longer impact than positive circumstances.

This is why there is such a strong movement in the sports arena to improve the environment that athletes participate and grow in. Success is very difficult to achieve, and the pressures are extreme. Each athlete is aware of these pressures and most are self-inflicted and motivated. It is the external pressures that we need to consider and approach in a sensitive manner.

soccer high fives

I have always believed that champions can be created in a fun, positive, and exciting environment. I know, I lived it. It breaks my heart to hear the tragic stories of those who suffered many years in poor controlled and negative environments. Just one example of many is the recent story published about Katelyn Ohashi.  A true champion that was able to find her own path but not without years of turmoil as a young athlete.

It is our job as coaches, parents, and friends to support and nurture our students and children as they pursue their dreams and goals. For when they succeed, we also succeed. And when they fail we need to be there to pick them up and help regain their confidence.

success silhouette words

Confidence, Mental Training, Preparation, Stress, Training

Stress in Sports

running serious

Stress is a natural emotion and it occurs in all facets of life. It is certainly no fun to deal with stress, especially if the anxiety becomes so extreme that it affects one’s physical ability to function. Stress in sports is a common occurrence and needs to be recognized and controlled as much as possible. In this discussion, I will share my thoughts on the stress athletes may encounter, and ways it can be controlled.

Stress can disrupt a person’s physical and emotional state and can even cause major medical problems. The results of serious stress can create health problems such as high blood pressure, depression, and many other dangerous issues. Today there are a number of medications that can aid in helping to control stress or anxiety, but the better way is to learn to control it without the use of these medications.

While they may be better at hiding it than most of us, athletes will almost assuredly have to deal with varying levels of stress throughout their competitive career. With that said the competitive athlete’s must find a way to deal with stress and anxiety on their own. No matter how remote the reality, competitive athletes today are restricted from using most if not all of these medications due to the possibility of performance enhancement.


runner on dock

In order to reduce or hopefully even eliminate the anxiety we must first determine what’s causing the stress. Is it self inflicted? Meaning that the athlete is putting stress upon themselves to perform at a particular level or accomplish a specific goal? Or is the stress coming from an external source like a coach or parent? If the stress is coming from an external source, this is more difficult to control and could escalate to serious levels.

yoga cat stretch

Self inflicted stress is very common and usually relates to ones emotions concerning their own abilities and performances.  It is a normal emotion and most experienced athletes are familiar with it and have their own means of controlling it.  When getting ready for a major competition for example, the athlete may have certain rituals established that keep them focused and in control.  When I was preparing for a major competition, I would often find time alone to practice imagery, almost like meditation.  Often, finding a hobby that can be used to distract the mental emotions of an upcoming competition is a useful tool for control.  Self inflicted stress is much easier to overcome because the individual is in control of their own emotions.

External stress is much more difficult to control and in many cases can lead to devastating results.  This type of stress can be caused by pressures inflicted from other people such as a coach or parent.  I have seen many athletes under extreme stress due to the expectations of their coach or parent. Unwarranted stress like this is unacceptable!!


woman stressed

This form of stress can cause adverse health issues that in many cases will affect the athlete the rest of their live. I have always believed that the individual no matter if they are a recreational student or an elite athlete should be treated with respect in a positive environment.  It is for this reason the United States Olympic Committee and each individual Sport’s Governing Body have created what is called “SafeSport”.  This program was created to protect the athletes from abuse in all areas: verbal, mental, physical, and sexual.  There are now serious consequences for a coach or instructor if they are reported in treating an athlete in such a manner.

Angry parent anim

A serious problem that has little or no consequences is stress created by a parent (Coaching the Parents).  Of course, physical abuse can be reported and consequences will follow, however, verbal and emotional abuse is difficult to manage.  When it is apparent the stress is a result of pressure by the parent, the coach may be able to help by discussing the issue with the parent.  It could be possible that the parent is not aware of the stress they are inflicting on their child.  It is common to see parents coaching their children on the sidelines at little league events.  Although they may think this will improve their performance, it many times increases their stress level. Not only does this distract the athlete from focusing on what the coach is trying to accomplish, it may also prevent the athlete from being able to focus on the task at hand.

All athletes will incur stress throughout their careers and each athlete will deal with it in their own way. Stressful situations are common, such as a competition or learning a new skill. The athlete that can control their emotions in these situations will have a much better chance of a positive outcome. There is no doubt that it is stressful for most people to be involved in a competition, the more serious the competition the more extreme the stress.



The most stressful event I experienced in my competitive career was preparing and competing at the 1984 USA Olympic Gymnastics Trials.  I have trained many years for this one chance to accomplish my dream.  If I would make only one mistake, my dream would not become reality.  The pressure was Huge!!  I was prepared physically for the Trials, but I had to control my emotions leading up to the event as well as during the event.  I am certain most all the competitors had to deal with the same emotions.  Leading up to the competition, I would go out to the lake alone and go fishing.  This was a relaxing and non-stressful environment that allowed me to clear my mind and focus on only what was important. I must have controlled my stress well as I had a great competition and found a place on the Olympic Team.

Stress can be very unpleasant and will reoccur throughout the athlete’s career.  It may take years to control, but the patient athlete will learn how to control it and move forward in their development in a positive manner.  When I first started giving motivational speeches to large groups, for example, I was terrified.  I even froze up a few times in my first few presentations.  I believe most speakers deal with this emotion when starting out their career.  After some time and experience, my presentations flowed like clockwork and most of my apprehensions were gone.  Through consistency, I was able to control my emotions and feel confident in what I was doing.  Of course, having a great support group is certainly a great benefit to assist in building confidence and relieving stress.

Successful athletes have dealt with many stressful issues along their path to achieve their goals.  Stress cannot be eliminated and is part of being an athlete.  It is how one deals with it that is important, and there are many methods that one can utilize to help keep this emotion under control.  Let’s all be the positive support group that helps these special people achieve their dreams and goals.




I would love to hear your comments. Also, if there are any subjects you would like me to cover, let me know and I will do my best to post my thoughts.  Please Like and Share to all you believe will benefit from the information.

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