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Sibling Impacts

Siblings_ Our Experiences



When a young athlete has siblings, especially if they’re not athletes, parents can easily find themselves in a no-win situation when it comes to the fair allocation of time and attention. Whilst reducing time spent prioritising their athlete can adversely affect their progress, spending too much time risks other siblings feeling left out or jealous, with accusations of favouritism.

It’s alarmingly easy for your athlete’s sport to become your dominant focus at the expense of your other children… without you even realising it. This is especially likely if your athlete suddenly starts to progress and performance levels become higher. Being aware that this can happen allows you to put in place strategies to mitigate the potentially damaging effects on other family members.

Athlete & Parent Guidance

The Sibling Balancing Act Part 1:

The Sibling Balancing Act:

Seamus Derbyshire, GB 400m Hurdles

Parenting an 'Only Child' Athlete:

Cheryl Higgins, Mum to Ben (GB 400m)


How You Can Help

Share Parental Responsibility

  • If the same parent always does the training and competition runs, difficulties can emerge within the family as one child can be seen to be receiving an unfair amount of time and attention from that parent. Feelings of favouritism can emerge that can cause unhappiness and potentially become damaging. Consider alternating this parental responsibility to allow all siblings time with both parents.

Divide Attention Equally

  • Balancing your time and attention fairly between all of your children can be incredibly difficult at the best of times, especially if you’re a single parent. This can become even more problematic when one of them is an aspiring athlete. Having conversations with them all about these difficulties and showing that you are trying to keep things as fair as possible, can often help. If they can see for themselves that you’re in an almost no-win situation, it can sometimes create a more understanding environment.

Athlete Siblings

  • If the athlete has other athlete siblings, keep the interest and attention equal across them all irrespective of performance level. Parents will need to be careful to avoid loyalty issues that can trigger unhelpful competitive jealousies. Showing more attention to the higher-performing athlete can create feelings of ‘not being good enough’ for the other, potentially impacting their self-esteem, causing unhappiness and increasing the likelihood of long-standing confidence and self-worth issues.

Non-Athlete Siblings

  • Siblings not involved in sports can easily feel excluded, especially if they have no other interests or hobbies that parents can share. Coming up with strategies to avoid them feeling ‘left out’ and/or ‘not good enough’ will be crucial for preserving a harmonious family dynamic and maintaining the sibling’s wellbeing. Siblings need to know that you care about them as much as their athlete brother or sister and will be actively needing you to demonstrate this as evidence for reassurance. Expecting them to assume you care might not be enough and can be a risky strategy.

Sport Conversations

  • Your athlete’s sport should be an occasional rather than regular topic of conversation during family times, especially meal times, to avoid other siblings feeling left out. Consider saving these conversations for car journies to and from training when you’re alone with your athlete.

Inadvertent Tension

  • Be aware that the athlete themself can feel genuine guilt that they’re receiving more of their parent’s time and attention than their siblings. This can create unease within the siblings’ relationships. Encourage your athlete to communicate with his/her siblings. For some, verbalising this guilt might help to reduce any tension that may be building.


Take Home Point


When spreading attention equally between athletes and their siblings, the take-home point for parents is to prioritise fairness and open communication. By giving equal attention, support, and opportunities to each child, you promote a sense of equality and prevent potential feelings of resentment or unfairness.

Open and honest communications allow siblings to express their feelings and concerns, fostering understanding and maintaining a positive family dynamic. Ultimately, the goal is to create an inclusive and supportive environment where each child feels valued, respected, and heard.



Evidence-Based Research

Our content is supported by the following evidence-based research:


  • Bean, C.N., Fortier, M., Post, C. and Chima, K., 2014. Understanding how organized youth sport may be harming individual players within the family unit: A literature review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 11(10), pp.10226-10268.

  • Harwood, C.G. and Knight, C.J., 2016. Parenting in sport. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 5(2), p.84.

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