Parent pressure on students’ sports and academics


Artwork by Elysse Weber

Stress can consume many students and greatly impact their mental health.

Emery Bishop, Staff Writer

Growing up surrounded by a community where participating in club and school-sponsored sports is considered a social norm, I have seen and experienced the overwhelming emotions of stress parents can bring upon their children. Not only are sports and other activities encouraged, but the pressure of succeeding in school to a parent’s desired level can be a roller coaster in itself.

Sports are introduced at young ages, allowing parents to sign their children up for their desired activities in clubs and leagues. As you get older, sports are implemented into middle and high school where you can play with your friends, which may add more excitement. However, sports are not fun if you leave feeling distressed and deflated. In some situations parents believe that motivating their children by yelling at them, comparing them to others and only pointing out their flaws is the most effective way to enhance their performance. Players may feel as if they are not enough and do the opposite by losing motivation for their sport.

According to Frank Smoll, Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington, “Parents play a pivotal role in determining whether a sport is a fun learning experience or a nightmare.” Frustrated jock syndrome is the case where parents try reliving their own experiences, putting an intense amount of pressure on their child. Reinforcing good behaviors instead of only pointing out the negative encourages the child to try their best and view the activity in a positive light.

Long-term effects such as substance abuse, depression and anxiety can result from the oppressive expectations given to a player. The risk of physical injury increases as these children ignore their level of pain and return before fully healing. Parents modeling constructive criticism and the importance of effort instead of winning or losing can reduce the overwhelming emotions and prevent their child from developing a hatred towards their longtime sport.

Another major pressure point parents seem to intensify is academic performance in school. Although parents usually want what is best for their children and their future out of love, unrealistic grade expectations are commonly set in high school. Children are constantly grasping for their parents’ validation, especially in school, causing bad mental states and anxiety if not met. 

Parents creating an environment where their children feel loved and accepted is the best way your kid’s abilities can grow. Avoid pressure on your kid and guide them in the direction of your desire, while showing positive support along the way.