Advice from the pros on how to best parent young athletes

Article Index

Parents' words can make or break a young athlete.

What a mom says after practice or how a dad acts during a game can make the difference between an athlete gaining confidence in a sport or quitting altogether.

To find out how parents can have the most impact on their young athletes, we turned to the pros for advice. We asked several professional athletes, an Olympian and a couple of successful coaches to think back to their experience as young athletes — and some now as parents — to answer the question, “What is the best way to be a supportive sports parent?”

Here is what they had to say.


Athlete Steve Smith family HW

Steve Smith Sr.

Wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens and father of four

"After making some mistakes, I have learned that my kids don't care how much I know in sports or what advice their professional dad has for them after a challenging game. They care about whether or not I saw them score, how they look in their uniform and where we are going to eat after the game. The most important thing that would fracture our relationship is that the sport or activity can't be more important to me than it is to the kids. Because if so, it’s about me, not them. Love them, cheer for them, hug them afterwards, but most of all, let them know they are good enough.”

Photo: Smith and his family, including Boston, 11; Payton, 18; Steve Jr., 2; his wife Angie, and Baylee, 15. Photo by Heather Marie Photography


Athlete Brenda Frese W

Brenda Frese

Head coach of University of Maryland women's basketball team and mother of two

"My parents raised six kids and supported us all through sports. They were at every single game of mine, which is incredible. They always sat in the stands and supported me through and through. They never yelled, screamed or coached me. The only time they gave me input is if I asked. It allowed me to grow and learn from the sport and remain passionate to what I was doing.

“Today, as a high-level coach myself, I support my twin boys the same way with their sports. I cheer and sit back and enjoy and watch them grow and learn the sport they are trying to play. I always ask them if they had fun and were they a great teammate and coachable. I want to support my kids the same way my parents did with me, which allows for a healthy way to develop through sports."

Photo: Frese with sons Tyler and Markus Thomas, and husband, Mark Thomas. Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Click next below for more parenting advice from professional athletes.


Athlete Ali Krieger W

Ali Krieger

Defender for the 2016 Olympic U.S. Women's Soccer Team, U.S. Women's National Team and the Washington Spirit

"When I was growing up, my mom and dad always let me decide what I wanted to do, both in sports and other activities. Even if I found out I didn't like something, my mom would let me explore and figure it out on my own. I tried tap dance, cheerleading and many sports. If I had an itch to do it, they let me try it. They encouraged me, were supportive and allowed me to make my own path."

Photo: Krieger played on the U.S. Women's National Team at the Olypics in Rio this summer. Photo by Cyntia Hobgood-Our Game Magazine


Athlete Brian Reese W

Brian Reese

Head coach for the Chesapeake Bayhawks lacrosse team

"One of the best ways to be a supportive parent is to release your kids to the coach and the team during practices and games. Allow the coaches to coach them, and allow the kids to make mistakes. After the game and practice is over, be supportive whether they win or lose, play great or play poorly. That is a parent's time to be a confidence booster and not to be critical. Encourage all their teammates from the sideline but avoid coaching them. Remember, their performance is not a direct reflection on the parents, but their attitude, sportsmanship and work ethic is."

Photo: Reese, head coach of the Chesapeake Bayhawks. Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bayhawks


Athelete Billy Hurley HW

Billy Hurley III

Professional golfer on the PGA Tour who earned his first victory this summer and a father of three who currently lives in Annapolis.

“My parents were instrumental in getting me to where I am today. My father taught me to play golf, and my mother drove me to countless practices and tournaments. I could not be more grateful for these gifts. My wife and I believe in exposing our kids to a host of athletic activities and seeing where their talents and interests lie. I also encourage parents to teach their children a variety of skills so they become well rounded. A sports career can be short-lived and has peaks and valleys, which is why a solid, wide-ranging education is so important.”

Photo: PGA Golfer Billy Hurley with his wife, Heather, and children Madison, 2, Will, 10, and Jacob, 7. Photo courtesy of Tiger Woods Foundation

© 2018 Chesapeake Family Life. All Rights Reserved.