Tips for Raising a Professional Athlete

Millions of kids all over the world have the dream of becoming a professional athlete. Whether they’re attending a youth wrestling camp or practicing basketball on the neighborhood courts, they are trying to prepare themselves for a career in sports. They know that fulfilling their dream is a long shot, but they dare to dream anyway, and parents want to help them achieve their goals in any way possible. These tips for raising a professional athlete can guide you in knowing the best ways to support them.

Let Your Child Lead

Every year, thousands of kids drop out of the sport they once loved because their parents pushed them too hard. Even those who have boundless talent get burnt out when it’s the parents who are driving the dream rather than the child. If your son or daughter wants to take a break, let them, no matter how difficult it is for you to do. If your child truly wants to become a professional athlete, they will make it happen on their own. It can be hard to see a child not use his or her talents, but it’s better than causing resentment by forcing them to do something they don’t want to do.

Encourage Intrinsic Motivation

Oct 10, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Joel Embiid and Under Armour celebrate their new multi-year partnership by surprising local Philadelphia youth with a giveaway at the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Frankford. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Your child wants to please you. They probably also want to please their coach and their teammates, or to make tons of money. However, those reasons are not enough to sustain a professional career. The best athletes play for themselves and the love of the sport. If your child isn’t intrinsically motivated to put in the effort it takes to become a professional athlete, it’s not going to happen. Eventually the need to please everyone will not be enough to sustain their interest in the sport and they’ll move on to something that they are intrinsically motivated to do.

Emphasize the Continued Need to Improve

Even athletes at the top of their game know they have ways in which they can still improve. Remind your child that there are always goals to reach, no matter how good you are at a sport. Even tiny adjustments can reap huge gains, so they should continue to strive for improvement. This is a skill that can transfer over to any part of life, whether they become a professional athlete or not, so it’s an important lesson no matter how talented your child may be.

Keep it Fun

Mar 7, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Game officials and players from FC Cincinnati and Atlanta United are joined by youth escorts on the field prior to a match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

No one enjoys activities that aren’t fun, so if playing a sport starts to become more like work, your child will not want to put in the effort it’s going to take to perform at the professional level. After all, they probably first started playing the sport because it was fun. Just because they become accomplished at it shouldn’t diminish the enjoyment factor. In fact, it should become even more fun when they can play at the highest level with other top athletes. When the competition gets better, you have to use more skill and knowledge to beat them, which is part of the reason why sports are fun to play. 


Clearly, not every child who dreams of becoming a professional athlete is going to accomplish that goal. However, as parents, you can make sure they have fond memories of playing the sport they love no matter what they ultimately end up doing for a career.