Dad needs help - youth sports

I need some help. My son competes in an individual sport and has done very well without having to put in much effort. With his success, he became the one to beat and that happened. Several kids over past few months have completely outworked him and recently beat him. Soundly. It seems his success is a lot more important to me than it is him and I don’t know how to handle that. He’s 11, so not like scholarship is on the line, but still not easy for me. Any advice?

Are you wanting advice on how to make your son care more or how to make you care less? The latter is a LOT easier than the former.

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Definitely the latter. I know I can’t make him want it.

That’s quite big of you, and already a huge step in the right direction.

You ever read any of the works of the Stoics?

Support him in his endeavor, but acknowledge that you aren’t responsible for the outcome.

Or watch some “sports parents” videos on youtube. If that behavior doesn’t anger and disgust you, seek professional help.

Granted, it was a slam, but…

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Oh, man. Maybe read some stoics back in late high school, college? Recommendation on what to read?

I just see an opportunity for him that he doesn’t see. I have to bite my tongue though. I don’t push him or force him to practice. So hard for me to just sit back.

I’m not the raging lunatic sports dad, rather I seethe after the fact. Hahaha. It’s definitely my problem.

Is there anything he is into that you can get excited about with him?

And also, what’s up with the sport? Is it Off Season now, so your son isn’t thinking about it much? Or is it in season and he’s just not super excited to practice hard and do extra workouts?

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I would personally take a higher level view than the sport itself and see an opportunity to teach lessons around drive & complacency, failing upwards, effort & outcome et cetera.

There’s a fine line between being a motivational parent managing a hard line kids can’t grasp themselves yet and becoming the asshole throwing chairs and yelling at kids but imo with the right communication it can be done.

You’re probably going to have to help him through the initial phases of becoming better if he’s been relying on natural talent but once he starts realizing wins and victories he will hopefully internalize the feeling and the lessons that come with it.

IMO have him focus on being better than himself. Puberty is a wild card in sports and it would be self-defeating to prop him up for potential failure outside of his control in the next few years. But as he gets better/faster/stronger he will at least regain some ground on teammates and this will encapsulate winning vs quitting at the first sign of struggle and loss, and if that’s not a top 3 life lesson I don’t know what is.


Ok. Well, what is it that you seethe about?

Like, what part of you is offended by this?

Thats where the work needs to be done.

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there’s definitely a fine line between holding accountable and pushing too hard but the majority of kids that age would choose something ‘easy’ over practice more days than not . . my view is that it’s important to teach kids accountability at that age and set a practice schedule that holds them accountable and fits in their schedule without being too much . . I know that’s broad and not necessarily easy to do but the accountability factor will benefit them down the road

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The sport is swimming and it’s in season. It’s always in season, and maybe that’s part of the problem…

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Think about it from your kid’s perspective.

There are few things worse than parents who “take over” a hobby and passion.

  1. it’s annoying and hurtful in the moment
  2. it signals to them (whether true or not) that their purpose is to fulfull your desires
  3. there is a non trivial chance it will turn them off of something they might benefit from or other wise enjoy

Agreed. This is a mental convergence, and planting seeds for successful thought patterns vs actually being better at a sport. Not to get all woo woo or anything.


Book recommendation -

I have an 18 yo and a 20 yo and have always counseled but never pushed - always encourage them to find a way to enjoy the process rather than focusing on the result.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is always the go to recommendation for Stoicism.

A little spiritual, take it however you want, kids are on loan to us from the universe - you have to prepare them and give them back.

A happy and settled kid, one that knows he is loved, is more important than an athletic champion.


Never ending sports can be a grind. Training needs a beginning and an end.


The paradox of sport is that it should simultaneously be taken completely seriously and not seriously at all. That’s easy enough until it’s your kids. Then you have to figure out if they are taking it too seriously or not seriously enough.

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Missed opportunity. He’s often upset when he doesn’t swim well, but doesn’t do anything about it.

Part of me thinks he’s just lazy. But I tend to view most people as lazy. I grew up in household where your value was in how hard you worked.

Maybe find something you can do together so you are not an observer and he has a behavior you can model for him.

So is it your work ethic that is offended?