A New Year's Resolution for Parents of Athletes

This is a time for New Year's resolutions, and prominent sports psychology coach Dr. Rob Bell—co-author with Bill Parisi of the new book Don’t Should On Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness—offers  an excellent goal for parents of athletes to shoot for: "Less is More" when it comes to your involvement with your high school athlete.

The growing emphasis on trophies, winning, and external rewards such as scholarships is driving parents to make kids focus on the end result rather than on the process itself. But only a love for the process will give kids the grit, the guts, the resiliency, and the will to fight without giving up. This can only come from within.

So instead of critiquing, giving feedback, and creating expectations by telling them what they should—or should not—do, Dr. Bell offers these tips on how parents can truly help their young athletes:

  • Let them set their own goals for each season--then hold them accountable.

  • Allow them to fail and to learn from failures’ priceless lessons.

  • Forget about the outcome, allowing them to embrace the process. This is what will give them the mental toughness they need to succeed.

  • Drop the focus on trophies and scholarships. Expectations about these and other external rewards are not what the process is about.

  • Don’t talk about the game in the car ride home. Emotions are still running high and kids may feel cornered. It’ll only backfire.


Rob Bell, Ph.D., is the author of several books on sports psychology including NO FEAR: A Simple Guide to Mental Toughness. A sport psychology coach and owner of DRB & Associates, where he works with athletes, coaches, and teams on achieving peak performance, Rob has coached winners during the PGA tour. He has also advised major universities, most recently working with Notre Dame. 

Bill Parisi is founder of Parisi Speed School and an internationally recognized fitness business expert. An originator of the U.S. youth training industry, Bill has served as a consultant to the N.Y. Giants, was commissioned by Nike to help develop its original high school football combines, and has lectured for such esteemed organizations as the NFL and the American College of Sports Medicine.