As the parent of a young high-performance athlete, there are few moments more exciting than learning your child has the chance to play college sports or commit to a professional contract.

It feels like the ultimate crescendo. You want to share this experience with as many people as possible who have supported them. 

You’ve watched them put in the time and hard work needed to earn the opportunity. And you’ve supported them with camps, training, travel, gear, and groceries. One of the greatest feelings you’ll ever experience will be realizing it’s finally paying off. 

But for all of the excitement, this also marks the beginning of an intense and challenging period in both yours and your child’s lives. And it’s important to be aware of the hurdles ahead, equip yourself to be the support system your child needs, and provide them with the resources and knowledge they need to overcome adversity. 

Here’s what you need to know and what you can do to get ready for it.

The Challenging Transition to High-Level Sports 

The world of high-level sports can be a shock to the system for athletes in a multitude of ways—and all too often, they’re not yet equipped to properly deal with the change.

Changing Competitive Landscapes

In order for a young athlete to get the call to commit to college level athletics or go pro, they need to be at the top tier of their junior game.

And by the time their opportunity comes around, they’ve often gotten used to being the best of the best in your hometown.

But moving up to the next level brings with it a new challenge: the benchmark for performance skyrockets and the competition gets exponentially better. 

Suddenly, athletes are playing alongside the best of the best from all over the region or the country. And that means they may no longer be the best anymore. 

Sometimes they’ll even make the team but won’t see any playing time for their first full year.

This adversity can be incredibly mentally tolling on a young athlete, especially when being renowned as the best has become fundamentally tethered to their identity. 

And as a result, many young athletes suffer significant psychological consequences—sometimes as serious as anxiety and depression.  

Increasing Time Commitments

High-level sports inevitably demand a significant commitment of time and effort, and this transition generally entails massive shifts in your child’s scheduling and the structure of their lives.

For many athletes, this added pressure can be a massive point of stress. 

Juggling Responsibilities and Networks

As the required time commitment grows, your child might find themselves struggling to juggle their other commitments.

From schoolwork to socialization and family time, your child might find themselves stressed by the feeling of neglecting certain aspects of their lives due to the demands of their athletic careers. 

But it doesn’t stop there: this is a formative moment in your child’s life where they’re also trying to form their identity in the midst of a chaotic and stressful time.

And there can also be an added level of anxiety that comes with an athlete feeling like these sacrifices are causing stress to those closest to them—specifically their parents. 

The Struggle for Parents of Young High-Performance Athletes

Your child’s transition into the next chapter of their athletic career can also create friction at home and cause challenges in the way you support and interact with them.

Navigating Uncertainty of the Future 

You want the absolute best for your child and you’ve spent years supporting their athletic dream. But it’s not unreasonable for you to struggle with the idea that pursuing a future in sports isn’t entirely in line with your idea of a traditional career trajectory.

In the world of competitive sports, there are a ton of variables in the equation and it’s easy to lament a career for your child where their success is more solidly in their control. 

The world of high-level sports is uncertain, even for the most well-meaning of parents. There will come a time where both you and your athlete will feel the full force of this uncertainty.

All of this uncertainty can create a sense of helplessness as to how you can support and be there for them. 

But what is certain is that you can be there for them.

Struggling to Communicate Effectively 

Finding the right way to communicate with your child can be challenging at the best of times. It’s especially tough during these periods of massive change and adversity.

Whether it’s discussing academic struggles, or the grades they need in order to continue playing in college sports, helping them make career decisions, or addressing performance issues, these topics can be tough to discuss. 

It could even be that your child is finding it hard to communicate with their teachers or coaches and you want to help them work through their challenges. 

And what’s most frustrating for you as a parent is feeling like you’re not able to talk to your kid in a way that works for them. 

But you know that you need to act as a form of coach for your child as well. 

How to Be On Your Child’s Team

As your child progresses through their athletic career, there are some key things you can do to be on their team and help support them in a way that works well for the both of you.

Helping Them Sharpen Their Mental Strength

There’s a consistent thread you hear all the time with pro athletes: they’re all unbelievably skilled, they eat the same, train the same, and they have the same coaches.

But they don’t all perform equally. 

And the big differentiator is how well equipped they are mentally, socially, and emotionally–it all comes down to how prepared they are mentally for this challenging journey. their brain functions and how they think about things.

Even the best athletes in the world go through slumps, face adversity, and have challenges to overcome. 

But for young high performance athletes who have never dealt with that level of adversity, intensity, or scrutiny, it can be incredibly tough to cope with—unless they’ve taken proactive steps to sharpen themselves mentally. 

Taking the Lead on Learning to Communicate With Them 

You can’t just sit back and wait for communication issues with your young high performance athlete to work themselves out.

In order to really be on your child’s team, you need to take proactive steps to learn how best to communicate with them, and understanding their behavior is critical. This includes the way they think, act, and how they process information. 

Without these insights, the best you can do is guess at it. 

The Cheat Code for How to Support Your Child 

Every single child is different, and there’s no cookie-cutter formula for how to help them succeed. 

That’s why the best way to support your child’s wellbeing during their transition into high level sports is to understand them on a deeper level and to help them better understand themselves. 

This is the great differentiator for both you and them.

Not sure where to start? 

My Mental Game’s AthleteDISC is a scientifically-backed behavioral assessment built specifically for high performance athletes. It measures your child’s unique degree of four universal behavioral styles: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness, in a sports environment and provides insights into how they impact their athletic performance, their relationships, and their mental game. 

The results of this quick and easy online assessment will provide you with a specific and detailed action plan for how you can communicate with your child in a way that will resonate with them based on their preferred tendencies. Help your athlete build their mental strength. 

It will also bring to light the ways of communicating or interacting with your child that will have the opposite effect. 

By understanding your child’s personality, preferences, behaviors, and thought patterns, you can take the guesswork of how to support them on their journey through high level athletics. 


Parents, read more on the problem with being unprepared for the adversity ahead:

If you found this article useful, please share it with a sports parent who might value it as well.