For parents by teens

What is your first reaction when your child comes back from school one day and tells you that he or she has joined the school’s track and field team? Are you going to be excited and looking forward to witness your child receiving medals and trophies on the podium? Or do you frown in disapproval with feelings of anxiety that your children might be returning home in the subsequent semesters with red-marked Fs on their exam papers and warning letters from school?

More than just “Dad” and “Mom”

Parents play a significant role in a teenager’s life, when exploration and self-discovery take place and parenting influence the development of these changes to a large extent. Young athletes see their parents as life coaches, friends, training buddy, role models, part-time chauffeurs, and cheerleaders, so it is imperative for them to gain your approval and support.

When your teen makes the major decision to pursue a sport, it is a commitment that involves health, time, money and personal life. Parents too, have to make adjustments to the way they perceive their child’s needs, well-being and development.

There are various ways to cheerlead your teen. Simple gestures such as driving your kids to their race venues, or taking time off from work to watch their races mean a lot. Your physical presence to witness your teen giving their best shot from months of hard training is the ultimate reward. Alternatively, host a post-season party, which offers you a chance to meet and celebrate the members who form your child’s social circle, and understand the culture of the team.

A crucial stage in development, we should encourage our teens to live balanced and healthy lifestyles.
A crucial stage in development, we should encourage our teens to live balanced and healthy lifestyles.

Athletic success at the expense of academic success?

The greatest concern among most parents is how the intimidating training schedule of their teens may ultimately compromise their academic performance, yet a study from the University of Arkansas has shown that an emphasis on athletic success and participation is associated with higher scores on standardized tests and higher graduation rates. The main reason attributed to this result is that students learn important skills from sports and apply it to their studies.

Where the home front or the classroom may not provide the opportunity to develop certain important skills, sports can. Sports teams are built upon various roles such as captain, secretary, treasurer, equipment manager, and so on. From these duties, teens learn to manage their training, foster team relations and develop a sense of responsibility that extends beyond themselves.

Through playing sports, they also get to understand and apply values of resilience, determination, perseverance, teamwork and leadership, virtues that are better experienced first-hand than simply conceptually discussed about or read about from self-help books.

Contrary to hindering academic progress, playing a sport enhances classroom performances. Teen athletes often demonstrate the ability to apply the same discipline and focus on their studies, as much as they do on sports, and it is no wonder many student athletes continue to become inspiring role models for teen athletes.

One stellar example is Soh Rui Yong, a Sport Singapore scholar and a competitive distance runner, who holds the current national record for 10,000m. Soh shared his life as a student athlete in Oregon through a recent interview, where he described waking up early in the morning at 6am every day to get training done before school, and twice a week to get strengthening work done in the gym before a run. Soh also includes short naps in between or after classes to aid in recovery and help make his second run of the day easier during double session days. He is a great example of a student who can excel both in academics and sports with a well-managed schedule and balanced lifestyle. His athletic and academic successes also demonstrate that the pursuit of one does not simply jeopardize the other.

Students who engage in a sport, like running, tend to perform better in the classroom.
Students who engage in a sport, like running, tend to perform better in the classroom.

Proactively Supporting Your Child’s Success

By recognizing your teen’s desire to run, and offering your support and encouragement, you are also well on your way to building a better relationship with your child. Here is how you can help.

Firstly find an opportunity to sit down and chat with your teen to note down important dates of their school and sports commitments. Mark down their school examination periods and competition dates on your schedule so that you can use it as a guide to know when is the right time to give an academic or athletic boost to your child.

With these important dates in mind, avoid planning other activities that might affect your child’s involvement in these areas. Committed youth athletes do not really fancy the idea of missing trainings especially nearing seasons due to external commitments or activities because it will affect their confidence as well as performance.

Additionally, understand that athletes have a different way of life. While typical teenagers wake up an hour before lessons to prepare for classes, athletes usually wake up earlier in the morning for pre-lesson training sessions, or they might have night trainings till late at night. As such, timetables or schedules that fit for most teens might not be applicable to your teen runner. Try to accommodate and understand their needs of having an early breakfast or late transport back home. Instead of seeing this as troublesome or inconvenient, observe and witness the effort and commitment that your child is putting in setting aside his time to focus on things they wish to pursue.

In the world of sports, teenagers can make their decisions and be the best they can be. But all these would amount to nothing if their closest kin do not acknowledge their efforts, or appreciate their dedication. Therefore, parents, give it a second thought when your child invites you to their races, or tells you about the stress they face from coping with sports and studies. You have to believe in their abilities and understand the life of a teenage athlete if you are to be their greatest supporter. You would be surprised at how much these playful and seemingly childish teen of yours have matured and grown in their pursuit of sports.


  1. […] Family is the most important pillar of support for student athletes who are struggling to meet their sports and academic demands. Parents are advised to align their expectations to their child’s capabilities and self-determined targets, and refrain from adding even more pressure on them during the crucial periods of the competition seasons and school examinations. […]

  2. Good post. My son spent 2 years as a full time tennis player aged 13-15, so we lived this particular rollercoaster. it’s very tough, trying to balance motivation with not being the pyscho sports parent. We definitely allowed sport to be the priority over education and i’d do the same thing again. you can always study, if you want to be an elite sports person, you kinda have to do it pretty much full time from age 11-12, any sport. My son stopped and is now back as a ‘regular’ teenage schoolkid, but the experiences he got from playing tennis across the world will stay with him forever. no regrets.