The Sports Parent’s Guide to Surviving Competition Season

Competition season is filled with so many things, but as a mental performance coach, mine is filled with late-night texts from parents in full panic about their child’s upcoming competition. Comments like: 

“The coach is going to take her out of the routine if she doesn’t tumble.” 

“She has been out with the flu and is still so weak, but her team is counting on her.” 

“Her injury is improving, but she can’t take any more time off from practice, or she will not be ready to compete at the next level.” 

Parents’ pressure to keep their child’s coach, team, and supporters happy is real and enough to sabotage the entire experience. Instead of watching their child shine during performances, they hold their breath and pray their child can perform as they should, without error. Even after a perfectly executed routine, parents remain guarded until the coaches and judges assure them they deserve to celebrate, and often all they can manage to feel is relief.  

Photo Credit @SnappedByBeccaClark

Competition season for many parents is filled with stress and anxiety, but it doesn’t have to feel so hard. After reading this post, you will feel relieved and encouraged because you learned strategies for a stress-free competition season that allows you fully support your child while enjoying the experience of watching them perform in the sport they love.

Before diving into the strategies, we need to discuss a few truths related to the greatest sources of pressure for parents.
#1 You are not responsible for your child's performance.

As a parent, you love your child, so you provide them with the opportunities for classes, lessons, coaches, and teams they need to develop their craft. Along the way, the focus shifts from fun to performance outcome. Instead of being driven by passion and that can’t-get-enough motivation, they practice because they have to achieve a specific skill or level to meet their expectations and the expectations of others. You get swept up in the process and begin to feel pressure for your child to keep up with their peers and keep their coach happy. For some, this eventually builds to the point of feeling like you are failing as a parent when your child is struggling in their sport. 

I am here to give you full permission to release the pressure you feel for your child’s performance. Your child is intelligent, creative, and capable of developing solutions to challenges that will motivate them and build their self-confidence. By giving them space to take ownership, you will have more capacity to support your child when they need it and may even release a block your child has from feeling like they have to perform a particular way to make you proud. 

#2 Your child is not responsible for keeping their coach happy.

As a mental performance coach who supports the parents in my programs just as much as the athletes, I receive texts almost daily during competition season from parents terrified that their child will lose their spot if they do not get particular skills. I ask a series of questions to remind them that their child’s well-being is the priority and the exact thing that is best for the coach and the team. 

When athletes focus on meeting the expectations of their coach and teammates, they will be tense and distracted from the things that genuinely help them perform well. An essential part of this process requires an understanding that the coach’s job is to make decisions in the team’s best interest, which includes every team member. Those decisions do not directly reflect the athlete’s ability, talent, or worth. You can remind your child of these truths and help them take control of their confidence by focusing on personal growth and progress. 

Now that we have uncovered two primary sources of competition pressure for athletes and parents, let’s look at strategies that are more helpful. 

3 Parenting Tips for a Fun, Stress-Free Competition Season

#1 Model positive anticipation

Does your child lay in bed, restless the night before a competition, repeatedly replaying every detail of their routine? Instead of feeling more confident and prepared, they grow increasingly anxious and dread the day ahead. You may have even tried to encourage them that everything will be ok, but deep down, you too are filled with worry and fear. If your child’s pre-competition nerves outweigh their excitement, it is because their focus (and likely yours) is on all the things that could go wrong and mistakes that can happen. You both worry about skills not hitting, unfair judges, music messing up, and the mood of the others on the team. You consider the reality of a metal and replay past events that did not go as they SHOULD have. 

What would happen to your child’s beliefs about competition if you focused on all the good things that can occur and offered a positive “what if” to replace every negative one? How much more confident would your child be if they were reminded that they have practiced hard, are prepared to do well, and believed that mistakes are ok and not something to fear? As a parent, you have the power to help change your child’s beliefs about competition so they are more confident and excited to perform and have fun showing off all of their hard work. 

#2 Make a preparation routine

It’s competition morning, and tension is high as you stuff bags, yell to the kids to get in the car for the 100th time, grab breakfast to eat on the road, mentally run through the list of “do-not-forgets,” and pray for green lights and no traffic. Does this sound familiar? Whether it was a one-time, “never again” situation or a weekly occurrence, experience has taught you that preparing for competition is stressful, which does not go unnoticed by your athlete. 

What if it is possible that prepping for competitions can be fun and a way for you to take some of the pressure off of your athlete? It absolutely can with a bit of intention. Sit down with your child to list all of the ‘stressors’ and things that happen to get in the way of enjoying the day (or weekend). Maybe for you and your athlete stressors include leaving the house late, not eating breakfast, searching for uniforms last minute, or forgetting to wash and dry their hair for that perfect “we’ve got this” look. Help your child brainstorm solutions to each stressor and make a preparation routine so everyone knows what to do and when so the day starts on a positive note. Make this process fun, and follow it with your favorite non-sport-related bonding activity! 

#3 Make fun the goal

Competitions are athletes’ opportunity to show off their countless hours of practice and enjoy sharing the spotlight with their teammates and competitors who share the love of their sport. Parents, between the time, financial, and emotional investment you have put in, plus the coordination of team spirit events, balancing sports schedules, and sacrifice of your interests for the sake of your child’s passions, you deserve to beam with pride as you watch your child thriving in their element while you enjoy time with your friends and sports family. 

Remind your child and yourself to release stress and pressure by breathing, focusing on simple, helpful things, and painting a picture of a fantastic experience no matter the outcome. Help them release the pressure to achieve a particular outcome because that is outside of their control. Remind them that you are proud of them and love them no matter how they perform. Make the goal of competitions to have fun, and you will be AMAZED at the positive shift in your child’s confidence, motivation level, and enjoyment. 

There you have it! Today I have shared 3 Parenting Strategies for a fun, stress-free competition season and a few truths and tips that will allow you to support your child well and enjoy the experience of watching them perform in the sport they love. I know it is not easy to make these shifts but I promise that by applying these strategies to the way you approach competition season, you will feel lighter and more connected to your amazing athlete.

To help you get started, I have created a FREE list of Pre-Competition Mother-Daughter Activities to try which you can grab by clicking here.  

If your child is dealing with anxiety and fears in their sport or could use a confidence boost, I want to help! Whether they are getting ready for tryouts, in the middle of competition season, or ramping up for a new season, it is a great time to improve their mental game. 

As a Mental Performance Coach, I help athletes turn anxiety and fears into confidence and joy. Through 1-on-1 private coaching, learning content, and application guides, I teach athletes how to master their mindset to achieve their biggest goals.

If you want to learn more and see if Mental Coaching is right for your child, I invite you to schedule a 30-minute no-cost Performance Check Session. The session includes an opportunity for you, the parent, to receive support with your biggest challenges. 

Click Here to sign up. Spots are offered on a limited basis, so reserve yours today!

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