Club sports have created a pressurizing environment, caused by overly involved parents and unrealistic expectations, which ends up impacting the Sequoia High School athletic program, as well as the students participating in the sport. Some of these parents add more pressure in numerous ways, by threats of financial investment, and even distracting athletes on the field. These parents may drive their children to resent their sport so much they abandon it.
A loss of willpower to participate in the sport from the athlete and the constant pressure put on them can drive both the athletes and the parents to not want to play or support a team sport.
“I don’t really have the motivation for [basketball] like I used to,” freshman Shawn Royer said. Royer’s dad, Brendan Royer, coaches boys golf at Sequoia. “My parents really wanted me to do it to stay involved with the community, but at the same time I feel like I don’t want to do the sport. I don’t feel like I should be pressured into playing.”
Some parents and guardians can’t tell the difference between supportiveness and pushiness, sometimes driving the line too far, and causing their student athletes to give up sports.
“I think a big part of parental support is listening and finding compromises and solutions to problems you might have. Pushing is more of, ‘My way or the highway,’ ‘This is what I expect from you, and I need this now,’” girls varsity basketball coach Josh Yee said.
One way that parents add extra pressure to athletes is the threat of financial investment. It may be associated with unrealistic parent expectations. When parental spending goes up, it can increase the feeling of pressure to the athlete, or the parent may add more of it.
“[Parents] can say, ‘I paid for you to take privates, why aren’t you putting in the work?” said freshman Dani Pardini, whose mom coaches volleyball.
Depending on what sport is being played, some coaches have different opinions on if this added pressure is actually there or not, specifically comparing high school level sports and club level sports.
According to Greg Markoulakis, the boys varsity soccer coach, “Parents paying for more is 100 percent added pressure to both coaches and athletes. When I have a group that is playing at a high school level, you know, I just tell them that no one is telling me to keep anybody on [the team]. I mean, it sounds brutal, but it resonates with the kids especially when you have to make difficult decisions.”
The world of club sports can be vastly different from high school in the sense of parents adding unnecessary pressure to athletes. Parents give up their time and money to support their child in a sport, whether giving up their weekend to drive to tournaments, or paying for team dinners, yet expect a greater performance in return.
Parental pressure varies per sport, while basketball is more laid back, soccer has a higher demand for student athletes.
“I think that, with the kids who play club sports, they see that a lot. But with [school] teams, we do not see that as much. We don’t have that many girls that are club basketball players. But, the pressure does build with [money], hands down.” Yee said.
Because of this, the added pressure is the few times parents may show up to the games, athletes can think, “My parents are here so I have to play the best,” and might end up disappointing themselves if they are not played by coaches in a specific game.
“[What’s] definitely going through my head is, ‘I’ve got to play well because my dad is here,” Royer said.
This level of pressure is not healthy for the athlete’s mental health. Without an equal balance of athleticism and mentality, athletes may crack under the pressure of expectations to perform well.
If a family member is coaching the same sport that you play, there can be an even greater amount of pressure added to athletes to perform well. Some athletes feel this pressure, but others may not as much.
“From my perspective, I didn’t feel this pressure as much, because I just don’t really see it that way. But I do see it as my dad grew up playing sports and stuff; he was really into sports as a kid.” Royer said.
“My mom coached me in middle school. It made me feel like I should be the best on the team. It would just feel weird if I was one of the worst and my mom was the coach,” Pardini said.
Along with this added pressure of being the so-called, “coach’s kid,” pressurizing encouragement can upset many youth athletes in their sport. In baseball, parents yelling at the pitcher to “strike the batter out!” or in basketball, where there’s a penalty shot, parents can often go overboard with what they think is helpful, but in reality, may not be.
Parents may take away privileges, for example, friends, and electronics, due to their ways of discipline on the sport. Every family is different, so different responsibilities and punishments may be enforced to show authority. More importantly, they can take away the ability to have fun while participating in the sport that they might have once loved, without even realizing it.
“[Parents] can take away things, like their phones or stuff if they don’t succeed, or if they are watching their child’s game and they’re not in the starting lineup,” Pardini said.
“They start to believe that they are not good enough.”