How One Mom Broke the Cycle of Crazy Youth Sports Parenting

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the competition. But there is another way.

Stephanie Knorowski

| 6 min read


If there was a contest for which sport has the craziest parents, BMX racing would win.

When you go to a national BMX race you will witness the following: Parents screaming “PEDAL” as they watch their 5-year-old barely make it around the track; parents smacking their kids’ helmets, saying “Why didn’t you try?;” parents yelling obscenities at other parents in a jealous fit of rage; parents yelling at officials; parents celebrating openly that their kid beat another kid.

And for what? What is all of this craziness for? It’s just a kids’ bike race, right? But it’s not.

This is life. The BMX life.

BMX racers 1


Living like a fiend from one race to the next, just chasing the feeling of glory when your kid gets a win. This has been my family’s reality ever since my boys started racing, both at the age of 3. It has been a rollercoaster of a ride over the years, but at the brink of heading into our eighth year in the sport, I knew deep in my gut that I was overly obsessed with my kids’ sport and that needed to change.

On New Year’s Eve of 2019, I had a moment of catharsis. I realized that I desperately wanted to be different. I had recently signed up to be an assistant coach on my boys’ track and field team for the upcoming season and if I wanted to be a good coach, I needed to drastically alter my perspective on my own kids’ sports performance. My 8-year-old’s voice was ringing in my ears saying, “Will you be mad at me if I don’t do well?” I knew I had done some damage that I couldn’t take back.

BMX racers 2


All I could think was, “I need to chill out. There has to be a better way to do this.”

So, I began to research “how to be a better sports parent” and I began to read. I found I Love To Watch You Play and other websites like The Reformed Sports Parent and I read every article and interview I could read. It all started to make sense. This whole time, I had it all wrong. 

It’s not about me.

It’s about them.

Their wins, their loses, their ability, their practice, their racing … none of it had anything to do with me. I learned about having a growth mindset, focusing on the process, not pressuring them to do well, setting realistic goals and not comparing their performance with another kid’s. I learned that setting a goal to beat another kid is not a healthy goal. I learned about the importance of fun and enjoyment when it comes to sports and not to lose sight of the reason they ride in the first place … because they love it.

At the next national race we planned on going to, I had one goal, and that was to chill. I even had to write a statement to myself on a sticky note which said, “My name is Stephanie Knorowski. I love my family. I am here to support my kids. I am not here to compare myself to others.” As I felt the butterflies in my chest starting to flutter before their race started, I would read that note to myself.

Then an amazing thing happened.

It worked.

I was calmer. My kids’ attitudes were positive the whole weekend. There was no yelling. No tears. It’s funny how I never realized how my attitude had such an influence on them. I knew if I could be different at that race, I could do it at any race.

Change is possible if you want it bad enough. At the end of the race my 8-year-old said, “This was a fun race! It’s not about what place you get, but how hard you try and how much fun you have.”

Those are the words I want to hear him say at every race … not, “Are you mad at me?”

Originally published on 

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