Is Your Kid Spopular?

football kid2

SPOPULARITY is a phenomenon that has been around since team sports began. But with the recent intensity surrounding youth sports, spopularity is at an all time high!

The UN-official definition of SPOPULAR (sports + popular): The natural effect that occurs when your child is good at sports and she/he and the entire family gains stature on and off the field because of it.

14137957944_64443704b0This concept was brought to my attention by a friend’s daughter, an old soul with a very matter of fact approach to life. She brought it up to her mom after having a stretch of playing poorly for her travel softball team. She was feeling the effects of being UN-spopular:   “Mom, it’s funny, I’ve noticed that I don’t get asked to lunch after the games much anymore and my old throwing partners have ditched me for some of the better kids on the team.”


This athlete was able to see it for what it was and it didn’t bother her that much. But for many others, being UNspopular can be devastating. It’s particularly troubling if your child’s identity is too heavily based on their athletics.


Spopularity will typically present itself in four very clear-cut ways:

  1. Spopular kids will be asked first to partner up during practices – particularly at the young ages, the kids will often race over to the most spopular child on the team, clamoring to be their partner.
  2. Spopular kids get more attention from the coach. This can be either about their play or even kidding around more during practices and in between game action.
  3. Spopular kids get asked to do more social activities away from the sport with their teammates.
  4. Spopular kids’ parents and families are often treated with a higher esteem. They are typically engaged more by the coach and the other families on the sidelines and invited to do more social activities with other teammates’ families.

6859829007_c08970c30f_bKids become spopular only one way, by being really good on the field, court or stage. But unlike being popular, spopularity is constantly in fluctuation. It can change from game to game, week to week. My friend’s kid is confident and can handle this abrupt change in her status. But for other unspopular kids with low self esteem or those who are more sensitive, parents need to keep a keen eye out for this. The trickle down effect of playing poorly means a lot more when it hits kids socially too. And this could be one reason why so many kids drop out of sports earlier these days. If your kid is going through an unspopular phase, they might need some reaffirming that their worth as a person is a lot more than their performance in a game. And that many unspopular kids will go on to do much bigger and better things in life than hit a homerun or make the winning basket.


  1. This is the first time I’ve seen this issue named! I think the ‘glow’ that kids and parents bask in when the athlete is talented is real–and sometimes temporary. Thanks for calling it out–and naming it!


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