Nonathletes Need Attention Too!

Children and adolescents who are star athletes have no problem in getting lots of attention from their parents. In some families, so much attention is paid to young athletes that nonathletic brothers and sisters may fade into the background. This is most likely to happen when parents are heavily invested in sports themselves and prize athletic accomplishments.

It is important to keep in mind that all children need attention, love and support from parents. When nonathletes feel pushed into the background, parents may find themselves having to deal with jealousy, feelings of rejection and lowered self-esteem.

Find something special in each of your children to love and celebrate.

  • Although involvement in sports is to be encouraged and valued, other areas of achievement should be given equal billing. The nonathletic brother who is trying hard in school, who is musically inclined or has a knack for making friends deserves recognition and support just as the athlete does.

  • Clearly communicate that each child has unique gifts and endearing qualities and that you are aware of them.

  • Emphasize that growing up involves finding out which things youngsters are best at and enjoy most.

  • Approval of each child as an individual lays the foundation for self-acceptance in all of your children.


All children deserve quality time with their parents. Your involvement with your athletic son or daughter may vary in degree, but it will almost certainly require a time commitment on your part. This should not detract from personal time with the nonathletic children in your family.

How can you ensure that all of your children are getting attention?

  • Keep a daily record of the amount of time spent with each child over a two-week period. You might be surprised to find that a huge amount of time is spent on the activities of the young athlete.

  • Block special time around the activities and interests of your other children. When this is done, no child in the family will feel left out.


Editor’s Note: Thank you to Frank L. Smoll, Ph.D., and Ronald E. Smith, Ph.D., for this article. Drs. Smoll and Smith are sport psychologists at the University of Washington and co-directors of the Youth Enrichment in Sports program. To see previews of their Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports and Mastery Approach to Coaching DVDs, visit www.y-e-sports.com.
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