Stop Calling Me a Crazy Sports Parent

Alex Flanagan
In Balance
By Alex Flanagan | October 22, 2015

I know. I get it. I’m obsessed with my kids’ sports. I hear it and read it in the headlines all the time.

I know what you are thinking … I’m pushing them too hard both mentally and physically. That they should be playing pick-up basketball in the park, instead of practicing 20-plus hours a week with a coach inside a gym. That sports should be fun. An outlet. A way to get exercise.

I know I am going to burn them out. Shit, I’m burnt out by 5pm every Saturday just from driving to six different baseball, soccer and basketball games!

You don’t think I know that more doesn’t mean better? That the chances of my kid getting a college scholarship are slim to none? That my kids’ risk of injury increases by specializing too early? I do. I know all of it, because I think about it ALL. THE. TIME.

How hard should I push when my son doesn’t want to go to practice? Am I letting him down when I’m the only parent missing the game? Should I let him join the travel baseball team because he’s begging me, EVERY DAY, to play with all of his friends? If I say yes, how will we balance our jobs and 3 days of after school practice every week? Is it good for his health? Should I let my daughter skip a Soccer game for a birthday party?  Will she suffer permanent damage if I let her do too much too soon after suffering a concussion? What EXACTLY is a concussion? How in the world did it take me 2 hours to realize she had suffered one? How are we going to pay for all of this? Should my 7-year-old play up because he’s talented and tall or should I sign him up to play with his friends even though he might get bored?

I hear you on the radio, Tom Brady, explaining how you didn’t play football ‘til you were a high school freshman. That your parents favored a casual approach to sports. Lots of soccer, some camps sprinkled in, neighborhood play in the streets with kids you grew up with. I want to believe you and take my foot of the gas, but I can’t. Because you and I both grew up in a different time. And just wait, Tom, you and Giselle are about to find yourselves in the same ole Catch 22 that I’m in.

You see, I want sports to be fun for my kids too. I want them to enjoy themselves, to get the emotional and physical benefits of being part of a team. I’m not trying to be a crazy sports parent. I just want them to learn how to commit to something or someone and see it through. I’m not dumb. I realize my kids’ odds of getting an athletic scholarship in college are about the same 3 percent chance a pregnant woman has of having twins naturally. What you don’t understand is I don’t need my child to play sports in college, but I am desperate for them to get the opportunity to play in high school.

Being a high school athlete will help them steer clear of teenage drama and keep them out of trouble. Being on a team will give them a valid excuse when their peers want them to take a sip of beer or pop a pill. Plus, research shows kids who play on varsity teams go on to earn higher salaries and tend to get better jobs. They’ll have more self-confidence and better leadership skills. But … to play in high school they have to keep pace now or they won’t make a team. And I had NOTHING to do with that. I didn’t ask for high school coaches to start running tryouts with fitness requirements that rival the NFL combine. It’s not my fault that there will be over 200 kids trying out for a baseball team that has 20 available spots. Or that youth sports has become such big business that many executives have lost sight of what’s best for the kids.

That $7 billion travel industry that youth sports has created … that isn’t me. All I want for my child is to get to be a high school athlete. BUT… I don’t believe that will be possible if by the time they are 13 years old all they’ve ever done is play a few soccer tournaments on Saturday and some pick-up games in the driveway.

So, blame me all you want for being overly involved, but let’s get one thing straight … I’m not the one who took all the fun out of kids playing sports. So kindly stop pointing your finger at me.



  1. There is no such thing as competitive athletics anymore. Hidden personal agendas of parents and coaches have ruined youth sports. It’s very, very sad. As for being called a “crazy sports parent,” I would simply tell the coaches that “YOU MADE ME.”

  2. I see your point here, however I have to disagree somewhat. Being married to a high school coach, I get an entirely different perspective on some of this. Parents are the ones who ulimately control the HS Athletic programs. I have seen groups of parents band together to have coaches fired because their kids didn’t get play time. I have seen them conduct secret meetings to decide how to pressure a coach into running a program the way they want. I have seen these parents meet with superintendents to deliver an ultimatum that either the school does what they want, or their kids won’t play. I have 4 kids, who play everything, one of them is super athletic and excells in 3 sports. We do not encourage specializationl. Some Youth coaches and parents with Trophy Kid syndrome have done more damage to aspiring young athletes than the high school coaches who get them AFTER the fact ( entitled, inflated egos, and unrealistic expectations.) The youth coaches typically are the ones driving the need to specialize young and encouraging parents to spend their life savings on ridiculous camps and private lessons. I, of course am not suggesting that all youth coaches are this way. In fact, it is a very small handful. It always comes back to the parents. You can be an enthusiastic sports parent which is really what I got from your post…or you can be a crazy sports parent and ruin your young athletes. Trophy Kids, is a good illustration of the real issues of the latter

    P.S. I don’t think that encouraging and facilitating multiple activities and wanting your child to be able to play in HS constitutes a “crazy sports parent.”

  3. For the record, I approve of youth sports. However, it seems like you defeated your own purpose with this attention-getter. You list all the reasons you are a crazy-sports parent and the problems it causes. You says it’s even worse because you have to be one just to satisfy your “desperation” to get them into high school sports. You act like there’s no other way to help kids resist drugs and practice commitment, leadership, and success (STEM, Scouting, DECA, Debate, Music, etc.). Then you ask people to stop call him a crazy sports parent because…you just explained that you already know you are one?

  4. You’re all absolutely correct, you did not start the craziness. However, you can help to stop it. As a high school varsity softball coach, I would rather have players coming from the Babe Ruth leagues rather than the travel teams simply because they are more open to learning. More times than not kids that are playing travel are getting many different coaching styles. I hear, “my travel coach said”, if only I had a dollar for every kid that said that I could buy a lot of equipment. I would like to see softball players play for a local team that subscribes to the HS teams philosophy. Again, you can stop the craziness by slowing down your kids schedules. The craziness started one player at a time so you can stop the craziness one player at a time.

    • No… your kid just gets left behind. Period. The craziness happened before our kids. We did not create it. We have to deal with it regardless. And no amount of leaving it behind us is going to keep our kids off the bench or off the team. We have no control other than to opt completely out. THAT is the reality. It is all in or all out. And our KIDS are the ones that want in. We are doing for them for THEIR sake. Not ours.

  5. My daughter has been an athlete for as long as I can remember — various sports from baseball, basketball, lacrosse, etc.. She’s been part of rec basketball/baseball, CYO basketball, HS basketball/LAX and travel AAU basketball. All of it requires a commitment from everyone, but bottom line is the biggest commitment comes from the kid. If she didn’t want to do it, she’d not love it like she does — now matter how much we traveled, paid, or pushed. I’m proud to say she has just committed to play basketball in college next year. It’s D3 so not a sports scholarship, but she’s thrilled to be part of a team, providing her focus, etc. — that’s what matters to her. The sports brought out the person she is, it didn’t make the person she is today. I’m happy to be her fan for the next handful of years. The system is crazy, but I”m happy to have experienced it with her and protected her when it go too much.

  6. “What you don’t understand is I don’t need my child to play sports in college, but I am desperate for them to get the opportunity to play in high school.” Amen! I was lucky enough to play for a long time and every reason you lay out is why everyone should want their kids to play in high school. If the kids have the opportunity to play beyond, great for them, but that’s the gravy on top.

    You touch on an often overlooked part of the “crazy youth sports parent” – the fact the travel and high school programs are enabling the behavior in the first place.


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