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Christie Rampone

Christie Rampone and Dr. Kristine Keane on “Be All In”

Our number one responsibility as sports parents is to make sure our children are in an environment that suits their athletic potential as well as their athletic mentality.  As parents – it’s essential that we are extremely intentional about these decisions we are making for our children because it is very easy to get swept into the youth sports experiences. 

The hardest part of this parenting process for me was finding the delicate balance between encouraging, supporting and empowering my daughter to be her best, and pushing her too hard.  One minute it would feel like I was supporting and encouraging and then next it would feel like a battle between she and I to get to the gym or do the extra work.

I spoke about this topic (and many more!) in my recent interview with USWNT legend (8 year captain, 2 World Cup Champions, 3 Olympic Gold Medals) Christie Pearce Rampone and Dr. Kristine Keane as we discussed their recently published book: Be All In: Raising Kids for Success in Sports and Life. You can find the entire hour long interview at the SoccerParentResourceCenter.com.

If you are going to be a successful sports parent – one that is supportive, empowering, joyful, loving and confident – you must be intentional about striving for this goal, educating yourself, and reflecting about your interactions with your child, their coach, and the other parents. All parents – not just the one screaming on the sidelines – have a responsibility to do this. 

The foundation of being a successful sports parents is not only about the outward things like knowing about the best equipment, understanding the college recruiting process, ensuring your child eats the right pre-competition meal. All of those are important – but truly successful sports parents reflect on their goals for their child, determine and outwardly discuss their personal and family values related to sport, educate themselves about athlete development, and get better at, as Dr. Keane explained, “following along” - listening and observing their child.

We ask a lot of youth athletes when it comes to their “Athletic Mentality” because of the environment we put them in and sporting structures we have in place.  Too often our systems are set up to reward the result instead of the effort and process, and so our children often have a lot of pressure on them to perform.  For some children, this is positive pressure that results in person growth.  For other children, the pressure feels overwhelming and leads to a lack of enjoyment, anxiety and even dropping out of sport.  Unfortunately, a lot of times our children are feeling this pressure because we are not letting them lead the way and they are in an environment that does not yet, and possibly never will, suit their athletic mentality.

Too often – to use the analogy Dr. Keane used – we are setting them up with a perfect through ball, and they are not running onto it.

I use this term “athletic mentality” quite a bit in the work I do, and while I’m certainly not a sport psychologist, this term to me is a catch all of performance mindset indicators:

  • The attitude in which our children show up to a training session.
  • The desire they have to work independently to improve
  • Their ability and willingness to reflect on their performances
  • Their desire to be coached and seek feedback
  • Their excitement at setting individual performance goals
  • Their willingness to compete during a game
  • Their ability to put team first
  • Their focus on nutrition, sleep and recovery

Quite often – the parent is setting their child up with the perfect through ball (strong soccer environment for them to compete and develop) and they are not running onto the ball (thriving) because their athletic mentality is not quite there.

I asked Christie about this athletic mentality and what she thinks, based on her experiences as a parent, athlete at the highest level and coach – what “running onto the through ball” looks like.

Of course, there could be many factors such as the need for autonomy, more love and less pressure felt from parents, giving your child skills to manage the player-coach relationship (and much more) at play if your child is demonstrating these actions Christie describes. 

Uncovering what those factors are, listening and supporting your child is what makes sports parenting so challenging….and why Christie and Dr. Keane’s new book Be All In: Raising Kids for Success in Sports and Life is a must read for parents.

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Skye Eddy

Founder, SoccerParenting.com
Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF "B" License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.