How to Destroy Your Child Through Sports


How to Destroy Your Child Through Sports

Eight parental behaviors guaranteed to make your kid hate sports—and resent you

Ed Uszynski

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In spite of mini-movements of outcry regarding poor parent and coach behavior at youth events and the intense pressure being put on kids to perform, many of us seem committed to staying on a course that ruins our children’s ability to enjoy games.

Instead of sports being experienced as something good, a category called “play” that God created for our good and His glory, too often we use our kids’ playground to exorcise our own demons.

So in the spirit of Uncle Screwtape, we offer here a short primer on ruining your child’s ability to enjoy sports, a tongue-in-cheek list guaranteed to create instability in your kids in the context of athletics—and perhaps throughout their life.

In more than 25 years of listening to athletes from youth to professional levels process their experience of sports, I’ve learned that these parental behaviors can be counted on not only to ruin their experience of play, but also to create multi-layered psychological and spiritual maladies that stick throughout life.

For maximum results, apply these tips before, during, and after games.

Note: In the process of destroying their ability to enjoy a setting that should be challenging at times but still almost always fun and pleasurable, we will also be training them to despise our approach to life and to reject other aspects of our worldview outside of sports.

It should be obvious, but continue at your own risk. Here are eight behaviors guaranteed to make your kid eventually hate organized sports—and resent you in the process.

too often we use our kids’ playground to exorcise our own demons.


Travel. Buy individualized training sessions for your 8-year-old. Travel some more.

Avoid playing with actual friends; instead, partner with kids from other communities also tagged as elite.

Pay more money for that 8-year-old travel team than you will for the first year of college. Play in out-of-state tournaments that last four days—every weekend for four months.

Make sure every time your child plays a competitive game she sees flyers and signs that say “select” and “elite” and “showcase” and “premier” and “olympic development” and “Club A-team.”

Bonus: play the lottery. You’ve got a better chance of hitting on a few numbers than your kid eventually playing a college sport, and you’ll need the extra money to pay into the ever-growing racket of the youth sports industrial complex.


This is an around the clock tactic.

One approach is simply to regularly remind them what it costs you in time and money for them to play, and what a privilege and opportunity they have that you never had.


Whenever someone pays your son a compliment in front of you, make sure to diffuse its positive potential in his life by pointing out what’s still wrong with some aspect of his game.

Better still, take that compliment and turn it back on itself!

“You’re right. He has gotten a lot stronger in the upper body this year. But he still plays soft.”

“His swing is definitely quicker and smoother, but he still can’t hit stuff on the outside corner.”

“He’s definitely wired to be a leader, he just has no idea where he’s going himself.”

Spin it negatively whenever possible. You can harbor pride in your own heart when others compliment your kid, but if you let seeds of encouragement grow in their young and developing soul, it will inevitably lead to arrogance and laziness.

Snuff the positivity out! Don’t give in to the “participation trophy” mentality that’s taking over our country—you don’t always get to feel good in life. The less you allow him to feel positive about himself or how he relates to others the better. Contentment breeds stagnation.


We want to spur growth—constant growth—especially in those areas of life that we never mastered ourselves. In fact, be particularly tough on those traits you see in your son that remind you of yourself.

Expect him—no, force and demand from him—that he function maturely in areas of life that you continue to struggle with as an adult.

If you don’t create pressure to change at 13, he may wind up just like you.

Demand the end result of growth now and leave the process for later!


Sometimes it’s better to just not say a word. After all, you are so frustrated with her you know nothing positive will come out of your mouth.

So slay her with your silence! Leave it to her own wild imagination to decide what you are thinking.

Allow her to feel more worthless and guilty about whatever it is she didn’t do right by letting your silence say it all: “I’m so frustrated with your performance right now I can’t even speak.” Combined with silence, an occasional sigh or slow shake of the head make for nice ornamental touches.

This not only encourages her to feel worse, but will also train her to approach other emotional moments in her life with the same instability.

The alternative—completely blowing up on her—can also be useful when contrasted with the silent treatment.

Your own instability regarding her performance will help her feel like she’s constantly got both feet planted firmly in the air.

  1. Which point did you resonate with the most? Why?

  2. Why do you think we (or our parents) so easily default to these methods?

  3. If these methods continue, how will that (or has that) effect our kids view of God?

  4. What is one step we can make to change in this area? Or one step we can take to heal from a past wound?


General: What’s wrong with you? Why would you do that again? How many more times are you going to make that mistake? Why aren’t you doing what you’re being coached to do?

Sport specific: Why would you pass when you’re wide open? Why do you keep missing the hole to run through? Why won’t you swing at the first pitch? Why do you always swing at the first pitch? Why can’t you ever stop the ball at the net? When will you start stopping the ball?


If the coach won’t do it, somebody has to, right? And we’ve all been in situations where the coach yelled the entire game but had no idea what he was talking about. Play your role!

Let repetition work its magic. If your child hears you yell “GO! RUN! STOP!” enough, at some point you have to figure it will all sink in.

You know you’re getting somewhere when your kid starts yelling stuff back at you from the court or field. You’re almost there! Now you’ve got their attention which is the greatest challenge in this attention-deficit-creating kind of world we live in.

Indeed, until young Erik or Maria or Jack start yelling things back in your direction during the game, you know you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Don’t give up! The more you yell your encouragement, the harder it will be for them to continue ignoring you.

It’s just a matter of time before they despise having you at the games at all, and in these vulnerable conditions you’ll have the kind of lasting impact they’ll never forget.

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