Chris Judd: How to be a good sports dad

As a father, it’s natural to want your children to succeed at sport – but how do you strike a balance between being encouraging and being overbearing? After all, no one wants to be the dad on the sideline who’s screaming at the referee…

Chris Judd

Chris Judd

Chris Judd is a former AFL footballer and twice winner of the Brownlow Medal.

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Often, the parents you find shouting and screaming from the sidelines are pretty set on their kid becoming a sports star. But my parents were the opposite. My dad played football until he was about 19 or 20 and liked his athletics, but he was never obsessive about it. And my mum, she played netball into her 30s – always competitively, but only at a local level. They knew what it was to play competitively themselves, but it was never an expectation they put on me.

In my experience, the kids with the pushy parents are generally the kids that’ll stop playing sport in their teenage years. Part of the reason usually comes down to the fact they haven’t been given the space to decide if they’re playing sport because they want to or because their parents want them to.

And that’s because intrinsic motivation is so important for people to succeed in sport. Kids need space to find their own drive for it and if they’re forced to play, it’s so counter-productive in the long term.

Obviously, there are always exceptions to the rule, but on the whole, you don’t see athletes excelling because they’re trying to please others. So in a strange way what tends to happen is that overbearing parents end up killing the very thing they wanted through their own behaviour.

Make your #onechange

If you’ve got kids, take some time this week to explore a sport that they’re interested in.

Their goals, not yours

With kids, try to give them plenty of room to find their feet with sport – to see what they like and don’t like. While we’ll definitely encourage ours to play some kind of organised sport until they’re 18, we’ve made it really clear it should be something of their choosing and that they certainly don’t have to play it at a high level. That way, they know it’s more about the health benefits and learning about teamwork and sacrifice than us living vicariously through them.

Stories beat a lecture

A lot of the exposure I got to sport came from my dad, who’d tell me all these stories about footy players who’d retired long before I was even born. I can remember him telling me about Bob Skilton’s left foot and how Ron Barassi ran around the oval carrying bricks. Next thing he knew, I’d be running up and down our street with a brick in each hand. My dad never explicitly said that would be a good thing to do. He just let me take what I wanted from the stories and channel it in my own way.

I try to do something similar with my kids; sharing small pockets of wisdom with them wherever I can. So we’ve had conversations around needing to work hard for something if you really want it and how great players might not always be great people, and vice versa. I’m trying to teach them that there are more important things than the way society measures success.

Be passionate over pushy

Don’t get me wrong, most of the week we’re well and truly in survival mode, so the philosophical chats are few and far between. But there are other small ways you can be supportive, like actively starting up conversations about the sports they’re into, taking them to see a match – even just putting down your mobile phone for a quick game of footy in the back yard. They’re all ways to show your kids you’re passionate about their sporting choices, without crossing over into pushy parent territory.

Chris Judd

Former Australian Rules footballer Chris Judd is familiar with how to get your heart rate up and push yourself physically. Twice winner of the prestigious Brownlow Medal, Chris is an honoured sportsman and father to four children, Oscar, Billie, Tom and Darcy. The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.

Disclaimer:
The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.