This article is a portion of a Proactive Coaching booklet, presentation and DVD entitled, The Role of Parents in Athletics.
The involvement of parents in the athletic experience of their children is a given. Without question, all parents should be part of this area of their children's growth. Their involvement affects their own child, the coach, the rest of the team, the other parents and the officials. This booklet focuses on the parent's role from the perspective of the athlete. For more than three decades I asked my players a series of questions. The purpose of the questions was in give me feedback on what I could do to improve their athletic experience. In this process, I learned many things that helped me as a coach, but even more that helped as a father. These concepts are things that young people would like to tell their parents but probably never will. It is how we can show respect for them in this arena called athletics. Athletics is one place we need to meet their needs and not ours.
The presentation includes things that adults can do before, during and after competition that will allow the athlete to perform to their best and to create good memories. This booklet and DVD is a way of giving back to three decades of great young people on my teams.
Excerpt from Before the Game
The next step that needs to be undertaken early in the season is for the parent to "release" their son or daughter to the game, the team and to the coach. This recommendation is based on feedback from my athletes who have experienced the most athletic success and identified things that the adults in their life did to help them achieve that level. Parents should always stay close to the situation and get to know their child's coach, especially if their child is young. Parents should be fully aware of who is in their child's life. Once parents know that their son or daughter is safe emotionally (I don't mean not starting) and safe physically, one of the best gifts they can give their athlete is to release them to this activity.
As such, during the season, parents must share their child with the coach and the team. The earlier in their child's career they are able to do this, the better it is for the child's development and growth.
By releasing their young athlete to the game and coach, the parents are telling their children that all successes are theirs, all failures are theirs, and all problems are theirs. There are not many places in a young person's life where their parents can say, "this is your thing." This can't be done with friends, academics, decisions on weekends, or even movies, but it can be done in athletics.
The dilemma for most adults is that it is easy for them to see "solutions" in athletic situations and it is too painful for them to let their children find their own solutions. On the other hand, it is both necessary and helpful to allow children to work their own way out of troubling dilemmas. Athletics is one of the best places for young people to take healthy risks and to fail. Understandably, parents do not want their kids to take risks with cars, drugs, or sex. On the other hand, no downside exists for allowing a young athlete to take a risk and fail in a game or practice. If young athletes are going to develop into intelligent, instinctive individuals, it is critical that they are given the opportunity to solve their own problems during games. It is more fun for them, and they have an enhanced chance to grow in a meaningful way.
Parents should consider the following "red flags" that indicate that they have not released their young athlete to the game:
A parent who is continuing to live his own personal athletic dream through his child has not released them. As a child climbs the competitive ladder of athletics, the parent must consciously separate his dreams from the equation.
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- If you tend to share in the credit when the athlete has done well or has been victorious. "All that time we spent working on those three pointers and we buried that one at the buzzer" and "I showed him that curve ball", "We just won our 8th game in a row" are examples of sharing the credit.
- If you find yourself trying to solve all of his child's athletic-related problems. ("Let's get everyone together and talk this out," or "I'll just call the coach and solve this.") On one hand, it is only natural for a parent to attempt to steer his child through the rough spots in life in order to enhance the child's enjoyment of the athletic experience. But, athletics offer an excellent opportunity to allow kids to learn to solve their own problems. It is alright for parents to teach their child how to talk to teammates or the coach as an authority figure, but they should let their child take responsibility for the actions involved in solving problems. Parents should understand and accept the fact that there never will be such a thing as a "perfect season" and there are always going to be problems. Problems with injuries, playing time but mainly problems with relationships. Every problem that arises is an opportunity for growth for the athlete.
- If you catch yourself continuing to coach his child when the athlete thinks that they know more about the game than the parent does (that happens about 9th grade). I believe that is why so many young people are turning to sports that parents know very little about. I think that is why lacrosse is booming around the country.
- If you are more nervous before the game than the athlete.
- If the outcome of the game lasts longer with you than with your athlete.
- If you find yourself taking notes during a game so he can give his child advice at the conclusion of the game.
- If the athlete avoids you after the game or shows with their body language that they are embarrassed about your involvement.
- If you catch yourself being verbally critical of an official. Let's think about what yelling at an official is from an athlete's point of view - one adult, yelling at another adult in an activity designed to teach kids to respect authority - in their minds, it doesn't fit.
Bruce Brown is the director of Proactive Coaching. He has 35 years of experience as a teacher, coach, athletic administrator at the junior high, high school, junior college and collegiate level. He's coached football, basketball, baseball, and volleyball.