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By: Dr Lindsay Woodford

Being a Sport Parent

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We are sport psychologists, sport parents and retired athletes. We have experienced the ups and the downs, the cheers of excitement and the tears of disappointment that youth sport brings. Being a sport parent is a challenging job, and how we respond to our child’s sporting experiences has a huge influence on how they interpret them. We want them to enjoy sport, to develop life skills, and reach their potential, but it can be hard to know what to say or do at times.

We wrote this book because we felt there was a lack of support for sport parents. We have heard so many stories of how parents have been criticised, judged, or ignored as they have tried to do their best to help their child’s dreams come true. This is not a “how to be the best sport parent” manual – sport parenting is not a competition, although some parents have turned it into a competitive sport! You are already a brilliant sport parent – your child would not be achieving the sporting enjoyment and success they are if it wasn’t for your commitment, passion, and belief. We bring together personal stories from youth sport with scientific research and professional experiences to develop your sport parenting skills. Suggesting strategies that can boost athletic performance, enhance wellbeing, and strengthen family relationships.

Perhaps one day parents will be awarded medals for their children’s performances, but for now we in the sport parent community salute the team behind the team!

Dr Lindsay Woodford

I have loved sport since I was a little girl and my parents have always encouraged me to try everything – from artistic swimming to rugby, their enthusiasm and dedication has never faltered, and I am eternally grateful. From the highs of national selection for the England rowing team for the Commonwealth Games, to the lows of being forced to retire because of overtraining syndrome, my sporting career has been a bumpy journey. One in which until I became a sport psychologist and a parent myself, I failed to recognise the impact it had on my parents. Sitting on the side lines watching my daughter compete in sport is way more stressful than any international regatta I ever raced in. While I don’t always say or do the right things which my daughter Amelie will attest to, I hope that the strategies Zoe and I have shared in this book that are based on cutting edge scientific research and our professional practice experience will help guide you.


I currently work as a senior lecturer at the University of the West of England, Bristol and run my sport psychology consultancy The Sporting Mindset. I live on a farm in Wiltshire with my husband Charlie, daughter Amelie and our adopted furry, hairy, woolly team.



Zoe Taylor

Parents play a huge role in our sporting journeys, my parents did everything they could to help my equestrian dreams come true. I am forever grateful for their time, enthusiasm and passion for supporting me in my sport. It was a big driver for writing this book. Having a go at crossing the boundary from amateur to professional in eventing was a big step for me and my horse and I couldn’t have done it without my parent’s support.


The strategies shared within this book are ones I have learnt through my education and professional experience, ones I wish my parents and I had known when I was competing. Having witnessed many a challenging sport parent-child relationship as both attempt to navigate the highs and lows of sport, I hope this book will serve as a handy guide.


I continue to ride whenever I can and I am unbelievably lucky to still see and ride Finn (my beloved event horse) regularly, thanks to his lovely new owner. While not currently competing, I hope to go back to eventing in the future. For now, I am focusing on cycling and running with a few challenges lined up in the diary! In terms of my work, I am currently working for a talent strategy consultancy who specialises in people and change, and I continue to maintain a small portfolio of sport clients.

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