Tips for the Sports Parent | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic: Tips for the Sports Parent


About Me

Welcome to this week’s Q&A with Coach Rebecca. My name is Rebecca Smith. I am a high-performance coach specializing in helping athletes, especially young ones and their families and their coaches, thrive under pressure and have the happiest most successful youth sport career they can possibly have.

I am here answering questions, on Mondays at 4:30 Pacific on the Complete Performance Coaching Facebook page, where you can find me, and the other Complete Performance Coaching coaches. We are a hand-picked, personally trained, group of highly professional and wonderful people who specialize in exactly the same thing; helping you and your child or athlete, or anyone, overcome what’s holding you back in your sport.

Whether you’re having the best season of your life or you’re stuck and you feel like you can’t move forward, we’ve got what you need here. You can find us on the podcast, and you can always email me, if you have questions.


Perform Happy Update

I always prioritize questions from members of the Perform Happy community – our complete online mental toughness training center. This community has been closed, but we will be opening the doors again January 29th. Those of you who are on the email list, you will get a heads up when time is up to get in there. For those of you who are not on the list, you can go and get on the list here. You can specifically get on the Perform Happy waiting list at, so you’ll be the first to know. Because prices are going to up significantly after this little section of time where we’re going to let people in.

Just to give you a quick overview, the community is a place where you can access all of my trainings. This is everything I do with one-on-one clients, I have in video form all weight out for you in what I call the flowchart. That’s how you get out of fear and into flow, which is that fabulous state where all of your training comes together. You also get a weekly live training with me on topics specific to what’s going on with the kids in the community.

The parents have access to in the Perform Happy Parents’ Group, where I am literally answering your questions all day every day about how to handle your kid and how to best support them. It’s this fabulous community where you can go through all the courses and have access to me on a daily weekly monthly basis, however you like. Keep an eye out for that.

All right, so question of the day is from a parent who has been working through the Parent Course. She’s also been helping her daughter through the Fear Course. They’re making a lot of good progress, but she’s still having some growing pains with it so she asks

Q: How can you switch from ‘that gym mom’ to just supportive mom when the child pushes you to give direction or opinions, etc.? It can be hard to navigate around that area. I’m having a hard time knowing my place. Nothing seems to be the ‘right way.’



This is tough, because this mom is a fabulous mom, first of all. I know that firsthand from talking to her daughter. I know that she’s doing everything right. I can give you that little insight. But there’s this point where moms and athletes or dads and athletes walk this path together as a team from a very young age. Up to the point where now you’ve got an 11, 12, 13 year old athlete who has become completely dependent on you, or even an older athlete. I worked with a swimmer who was 16, 17 years old. His mom packed his lunch, his mom packed his swim bag, his mom handled everything. This guy even said to me, “I have such learned helplessness from my mother.”

I was like, “How do you know that term? And hello, if you know that you have to stop doing it. You have to start taking on responsibilities.” He’s like, “Yeah, but why would I? My mom does everything and it’s great. I don’t have to do anything.” This kid’s not a dummy. This is what we want to avoid, is getting to a junior in high school who’s saying, “Mom, how’d you let me forget my goggles?” When really that kid should have forgot his goggles when he was 10, so that he could have learned that lesson then so that he would always have his goggles in his bag before the meet.


Have Open-Ended Questions Ready

Okay, Lori, here’s the answer to your question. We learn this in the Parenting Course. It’s all about open-ended questions. I’ll give an example of my mother, who’s fabulous, she drove me crazy around my wedding because I’d be like, “Mom, what do you think of this dress?” And she’d be like, “What do you think? Everything’s wonderful.” I’m like, “Mom, give me an opinion. Come on. Tell me something.” It was always, “What do you want? What do you think?” Which I know is not everybody’s experience with a bridezilla’s mother. She was just like, “What do you think? I just completely support you. I think that’s a great idea.” She didn’t give me one lick of advice. She didn’t make one suggestion. She did not talk about colors or flowers or dresses or anything. She was like, “What do you think hon? It’s your day.”

It drove me nuts during the time, ’cause I was like, “Can somebody please make a decision so I don’t have to make all the decisions?” But you know what? That day, I had made all of the decisions and it was exactly how I wanted it, and there was nobody who I could blame for, “Ew, I don’t like that. I shouldn’t have listened to you on that.” She fully let me just make my day my day.

I so respect her for that. On a different level, like with your athlete, trust in them that they can know what they want. That she knows what she wants and she wants you to help her, because that’s easier. Sometimes making decisions is difficult, but trust her. Say, “I don’t know hon, what do you think?” She’ll be like, “Tell me mom, tell me what to do.” You’ll be like, “Well, here’s what I’m seeing. What do you think?” And you give her back the options.


Your Athlete is Anything But Helpless

You give her, “On one hand you could go this way, on the other hand you could go this way. I don’t know. What feels right to you? How do you think it went? How do you think it’s going? Where do you see this going?” That open ended questions are endlessly valuable to ask your kid, “What do you think? Do you have everything you need in your bag? Have you checked again? Awesome. Then I’m going to back off. I’m going to ask you one time, and then you’re going to just … Your bag’s either packed or it’s not.”

That learned helplessness thing, you want to just nip it in the bud. If you can give them a chance to fail … Now listen to me here. If you can give them a chance to fail when they’re young, when it’s pretty low impact, you know you reminded them to put their homework in their bag. You know you did.

You see it on the table. Do you remind them again and again and again and again and again and again until it finally gets in their bag, or do you just leave it? Then it doesn’t get turned in, and then they have the consequence. The next time you remind them once, they’re probably going to put it in their bag.


Forgetting is A Part of the Learning Process

Maybe you won’t even have to remind them and it will just get in their bag because they had that experience when it was low impact. That 10 year old forgot his goggles and was really stressed out for that one swim meet, you think he’s going to forget his goggles? Maybe, but probably not as likely. If your athlete is very dependent on you, it might be very uncomfortable for you to not help them, to not give them what they think you need. To not give an opinion, to not guide them, to not tell them what to do.

If that’s the case, that’s okay. I always say your job as a sports parent is to be the soft place to land, but not always to make everything cushy for them. They gotta try some stuff. They gotta work it out on their own. Now the hardest time for you to let them just handle it is when you really feel like you know. Like, “I know the answer. I know exactly what they need to do. I can see it so clearly.” Because we can always see other people’s stuff really clearly.

If you just ask the questions, it will hopefully lead them there, maybe not, they get to have that experience that will get them to where eventually they’ll see it or you might be wrong. There is a concept. You might really think you know. I’ve had times where even working with athletes I’m like, “Oh my gosh it’s so obvious, it’s so clear and they just can’t see it.”


Ask Good Questions

If I’m like, “Blah, here’s what you need to do,” it gives them a chance to push back and go, “No, that’s not it.” Then it’s done. Conversation is done, instead of just helping to present, “This is what I’m seeing. Do you see that? You don’t? Okay, no big deal. What about this?” You just keep asking really, really good questions.Ask good questions. Be okay with them failing a little bit.

Then, just know that your athlete is the expert on herself or himself. That is the truth. Even when I’m sitting working with kids, I am not the expert on that human. That human knows herself better than anybody. Better than mom, better than me. We have to trust our kids to know themselves and to make decisions and then have consequences. Those might be positive or negative consequences, and either way that’s totally okay.


sports parentParents: Let Yourself Breathe

It’s a lot easier to be neutral when you have slept, when you have had lunch, when you have had a conversation with a girlfriend, when you vented, when you have done what you need to do to feel like you can be present in your own skin and not be like, “Ugh I’m so uncomfortable.” If you can take care of yourself, number one, your oxygen mask goes on first, then you help your child, then you can know that your advice is going to be a lot better.

Your ability to just pause and take a breath and not respond is going to be a lot stronger. Give them that gift of letting them have the pause from you because you took care of yourself and you’re not running yourself raggedy.

Then, like I mentioned, change is hard. Homeostasis is the tendency to want to stay the same. Your kid might get a little tweaked if all of a sudden you’re not packing their bag and you’re not giving advice and you’re not helping them out. That might be a couple weeks of, “Mom, tell me what wedding dress to choose,” and then her saying, “I love them all, you’re beautiful in everything,” and I’m like, “Ugh, mother.” They might feel that way but just let it shake out.

What I’ve seen over and over in the Perform Happy Parent’s Group is that the less hands-on you are, the better your kid will do. I’m telling you, the main reason why kids get fears and mental blocks is because of overbearing parents and mean coaches. That’s the most consistent thing. When kids are trusted to listen to themselves and make their own decisions, and communicate and figure out, “What is my truth?” That is when they get through fear. When they’re empowered to.


There is No Wrong or Perfect Way

Okay. Then the last thing I want to say to you, mom, is there is no wrong way. There are some wrong decisions humans can make, but if you’re the type of mom who shows up and is active in our community and is giving your kid these tools, you can’t do it wrong. There’s no right or wrong way. There’s consequences with every decision in life, but it’s a learning experience for everybody.

It’s going to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is one of the best teachers. Just know if you’re trying your best, you’re coming from a good place, there’s no wrong way to do it. Cut yourself some slack there. All right, for anybody who wants a little bit more on the parenting stuff, I have a quick little report that you can get for free that’s the five things to never say to your kid after an competition.

If you’re afraid you’re doing these things, you probably are. They’re the most common things people do after a competition. You can download that for free at, and that’ll give you the five things to never say to your kid after a competition. If you want to join us in the community, we’re only taking a select number of people. If you resonate and you want in, get on the waiting list. You’ll be the first to know at I will see you again next week. Thanks for joining me, guys.

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.