The Parents' Role in a Runner's Life

A parent's attitude toward their child's running and racing is critical to their runner's self image, happiness, long term enjoyment and running success. Running is hard. To be fully engaged and able to race with focus, joy and abandon requires huge resources of positive internal motivation. This type of motivation comes from a positive self image, an optimistic view of life and from the encouragement of coaches, teammates and family.

External demands for performance place stresses on our kids that make it harder for them to enjoy and succeed in their sport. When we place external demands on our athletes running is less fun and anxiety saps their energy and focus.

Your runner needs your respect, admiration and compliments. They should NOT be told--either directly through words or indirectly through body language--that they should "try harder" or "race faster." While younger kids run for their parents' approval and attention from friends these sources of motivation run dry as a child gets older and develops his or her own identity. In order to succeed children need to develop their own identity as a runner, their own goals and motivation. This isn't easy work. To support their development we need to provide encouragement and embrace our runners at their current level, celebrate their hard work and improvement.

What should a parent do?

  1. Always congratulate your runner on their commitment, hard work and progress. It's great to celebrate a PR or a victory but don't miss any genuine opportunity to let your runner know you're in awe of their running. Keep it real but look for the positive.
  2. Show an interest in their running. Ask how they're feeling, what happened at practice and what they learned. Engage them in the process of becoming a runner not the results.
  3. Never suggest that you are disappointed with a runner's time or place. Sub-par races happen. Learn what you can then forget them.
  4. Limit your focus on race times and placings.
  5. Keep a long term perspective on your child's running. No matter their results running keeps your child working toward goals, participating in a healthy activity and with other kids who are smart and hard working.

To support your runner, you need to be their biggest and most loyal fan!