Parenting Lessons from the Super Bowl (& Active Parenting)

Parenting Lessons from the Super Bowl

Follow Your Dreams . . . 

I have a confession to make—I like football—I always have. Well, at least since I was six years old and my father took me to see his alma matter, Georgia Tech play Duke at Grant Field in Atlanta. Tech won 7-0. I guess it’s true, you always remember your first time. I started playing when I was in third grade and found that I was very good at it. In fact, I was so good at it that if I had continued on the trajectory, I was on in elementary school, I would have ended up playing for the Atlanta Falcons and we would have won a Super bowl by now.  

. . .Be Prepared to Pivot 

Alas, that was not to be. I peaked in seventh grade, and when I started high school, the next year, found that most of my peers had achieved something that had so far eluded me—puberty. The importance of this oversight on my part was driven home when one day in practice I went to tackle our fullback who was carrying the football around my end. I hit him at the thighs with a perfect form tackle that had held me in good stead throughout the glory days of elementary school. The trouble was that I was still an 89-pound child and he had become 150-pound man who later won a full scholarship to play at the University of Georgia. The collision that ensued was not so much as two trains colliding in the night as it was a pesky mosquito being swatted away by a gorilla in broad daylight. When I rolled over to see him still running down the field for a touchdown, I learned an important life lesson: When circumstances change, learn how to pivot. At the end of the season, I pivoted to basketball, my other favorite sport, where they had this great rule: The gorilla may not swat the mosquito.  

Football, as with all organized sports, has the capacity to teach children many life lessons…. 

Parenting Lessons 

As parent educators, one of our primary goals is to equip parents with the tools they need to raise independent, responsible individuals. Just as a football coach prepares a team for the Super Bowl, parenting can be seen as a process of preparation. Each day brings new lessons, challenges, and triumphs that build upon the next. By viewing parenting as a coach, we can better understand how to effectively support and engage parents. Let’s look at some key coaching tips drawn from Super Bowl preparation and how these can enhance parenting education.  


“Super bowls are hard to come by, they take a lot of work, they take teamwork, they take effort, they take perseverance,
and in that way, being a successful parent and a super bowl winning coach are very similar”   

Tony Dungy 

Hall of Fame NFL Coach & All Pro Dad 

Building a Strong Foundation 

The journey to the Super Bowl begins with laying a robust foundation. Coaches begin by honing the players’ abilities, fostering discipline, and underscoring the role of physical and mental fitness. Similarly, parents play a crucial role in shaping their children’s character by instilling fundamental life skills, promoting good communication skills, and emphasizing the importance of physical, emotional, and mental wellness.  

Building this foundation with young children can be accomplished through play where children can grasp and apply these life skills in a fun, engaging manner. This approach not only makes the learning process enjoyable but also ensures that the lessons are retained. As children get older, simple activities like preparing a meal together can teach children the value of hard work, time management, and the importance of nutrition. A family hike can instill discipline, demonstrate the importance of physical fitness, and show them the beauty of nature. 

Just as football drills focus on enhancing different skills, parents can use everyday activities to build upon various life skills. This hands-on approach not only equips children with important life skills but also strengthens the parent-child bond. By laying a solid foundation early on, parents can set their children up for success, much like how a well-prepared football team is set for a successful season leading up to the Super Bowl. 


Just as teamwork forms the lifeblood of a football team’s journey to the Super Bowl, the same principle applies in the sphere of parenting. The family unit is a team, and a harmonious, cooperative environment is vital for the team to function effectively. Fostering this sense of unity and mutual respect is the responsibility of parents. A powerful tool to encourage this is through regular family activities that require teamwork. These could range from board games, football, or other sports, and chores that involve everyone’s participation, like gardening or cleaning.  

Creating an atmosphere of open dialogue is equally significant. Encouraging children to share their thoughts and feelings can foster a sense of trust and understanding, giving them the confidence to voice their opinions and concerns. This freedom of expression promotes a culture of respect, where each team member’s thoughts are valued and considered. 

In a family, each member has their own unique contributions to make. Recognizing these individual contributions and appreciating them is another critical aspect of fostering teamwork. When children see their efforts acknowledged and appreciated, it cultivates a sense of belonging and empathy. They learn to value the work of others and understand the importance of each person’s role within the team.  

Just like a football coach helps each player understand their role for the overall success of the team, parents can guide their children to realize how their actions and contributions impact the family as a whole. This understanding can not only enhance familial relationships but also prepare children for future teamwork scenarios they may encounter outside the family environment. 


The hours coaches pour into creating game plans reflect the importance of having a strategy. Yet, part of that plan also includes training players to be flexible and think on their feet when unexpected situations arise on the field. Similarly, parenting involves a fair share of strategizing. This could range from crafting a weekly meal plan to outlining a long-term academic roadmap. Parents will want to have a strategy for handling tough topics like sex, drugs, alcohol, (discussed in the Active Parenting of Teens program and Parent’s Guide) and tragic events. As Leaders, creating a strategy for helping families is an important step. Choose the curriculums that best suits the families you want to serve. Leader Training is a great place to start, there are resources like our Live Webinars, In-Person Workshops, and Self-Study Online Workshops.  


An equally crucial part of the process is teaching children to be adaptable. Life is filled with surprises and unforeseen changes. It’s the ability to adjust and shift gears when needed that often determines success. Parents are in a prime position to model this skill for their children. This can be demonstrated through simple instances such as a sudden change in weather disrupting a planned family outing. Instead of focusing on disappointment, parents can acknowledge their disappointment and view it as an opportunity to teach adaptability by quickly coming up with an alternative indoor activity.  

Adaptability also plays a significant role when dealing with challenges or setbacks. Rather than allowing these to derail plans or dampen spirits, parents can guide children on how to view these as opportunities for growth and learning. For example, if a child struggles with a certain subject at school, parents can show them how to seek additional help or use different learning methods instead of feeling defeated. 

In the end, the goal is to help children develop into resilient individuals who are not only strategic thinkers but also can adapt to life’s twists and turns. The combination of strategizing and adaptability not only enhances problem-solving skills but also fosters resilience and flexibility — traits that are crucial in the unpredictable game of life. 

Managing Stress and Emotions 

The intensity that precedes the Super Bowl is a powerful testament to the importance of stress management and emotional control, offering valuable lessons for parents and children alike. Stress and strong emotions are part of life, but it’s how we respond to these situations that define us. Parents can model healthy coping mechanisms for their children.  

Maintaining a positive mindset, even in the face of adversity, can significantly impact our approach to stressful situations. Emphasize the importance of looking at the brighter side of things and seeking solutions rather than dwelling on the problem.   

Patience is another vital skill. Teach children that instant gratification is not always feasible, and that patience can often yield more satisfying results. Illustrate this with simple, relatable examples like waiting for a plant to grow from a seed they have sown. 

Also, demonstrate the benefits of stress-reducing techniques. Engage your child in relaxing activities such as mindfulness or yoga. Encourage them to participate in physical activities like sports or dancing, which are excellent outlets for stress and pent-up energy. 

It’s crucial to teach children that emotions are normal and it’s okay to express them. Encourage open conversations about feelings, and reassure them that it’s okay to feel upset, angry, or overwhelmed. The key is to express these emotions in a healthy, non-destructive manner. Guide them on how to do so by expressing your own emotions appropriately, using words instead of actions to communicate your feelings. 

Ultimately, the objective is to equip children with the skills to navigate their emotions and handle stress in a way that promotes their overall well-being. Remember, our children are always watching and learning from us. By modeling good stress management and emotional regulation, we help prepare them to handle life’s ups and downs with resilience and grace. 

Celebrating Wins and Handling Losses 

In the ebbs and flows of a football season, teams experience both victories and defeats. Super Bowl coaches train their players to handle these varying outcomes with composure and grace. Parents, too, can apply this principle in nurturing their children. The highs of achievement and the lows of disappointment are part of the human experience. By guiding children on how to react to these experiences, parents can shape their character and resilience. 

When celebrating wins, encourage children to appreciate their efforts and hard work that led to success, rather than focusing solely on the outcome. This fosters a growth mindset where the journey is valued as much as the destination. For example, if a child excels in a school project, parents should recognize their dedication, creativity, and perseverance that contributed to their achievement. 

Conversely, in moments of loss or failure, it’s crucial to help children see these experiences as opportunities for learning and growth. Instead of letting them wallow in disappointment, guide them to identify what they can do differently next time and encourage them to try again. If a child fails a test, for instance, it might be a chance to revisit their study habits or explore additional learning resources. This helps children understand that failures are not the end, but rather steppingstones on the path to success. 

Additionally, parents should underscore the importance of sportsmanship, regardless of the outcome. Teach children to congratulate others on their success and show empathy in their failures. This equips them with emotional intelligence and fosters a sense of fairness and respect. 

Through these life experiences, children can learn to be resilient, empathetic, and gracious — qualities that will serve them well through life. 

The Continuous Learning Process 

Just as a football coach continuously adapts and refines strategies based on the team’s performance, parents, too, must remain flexible and open to new learning experiences. Parenting is not a finite journey; it’s an ongoing process that evolves with your child’s growth and changes. This process can sometimes be overwhelming but remember that every step is a chance to learn, grow, and improve. Parents need to know that it’s okay to ask for advice and seek help when needed. There are numerous resources available to parents, from instructor-led video-based parenting education classes to supportive communities of other parents, that can offer valuable insights and guidance.

The key is to remain proactive and receptive, as our learning attitudes can have a profound influence on our children’s perception of learning. Parents have the opportunity to model a lifelong love for learning, inspiring our children to remain curious and engaged with the world around them. The journey of parenthood, much like the journey to the Super Bowl, is a constant cycle of learning, adjusting, and striving for better— each day presenting a new opportunity for growth. 

The Goal – Raising Independent, Responsible Individuals 

As in football, the ultimate aspiration in parenting is to cultivate self-reliant, conscientious individuals who can make significant contributions to their community. This mission, while challenging, is one of the most rewarding aspects of parenthood. The process of nurturing independence involves empowering children to make their own decisions while understanding the consequences. As we guide them through this journey, we emphasize the importance of responsibility, respect, and kindness, shaping them into empathetic and considerate individuals. Love, support, and a consistent presence offer the security children need as they explore their autonomy, knowing they can always turn to their family for guidance.

By playing our part effectively in this intricate process, we set the stage for children to flourish into well-rounded individuals, capable of handling life’s challenges with resilience and grace. Just as a team well prepared for the Super Bowl, a child well-prepared for life will not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity. Through our continued efforts in helping families, nurturing, and guiding children we contribute positively to their development and, ultimately, to the betterment of society. 

 Additional Resource: Emotions & Self-Awareness from PBS Kids for Parents

Introduction by Dr. Michael H. Popkin; portions of this article were generated with the assistance of Anyword based on Active Parenting Content. 


Active Parenting Publishers founder and president Michael H. Popkin, Ph.D. has been providing research-based education programs with an emphasis on nonviolent discipline, mutual respect, and open communication for 40 years. He is widely known for his expertise in the field of parent education and has appeared on over 100 TV programs, including CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show.


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