Being a Good Sports Parent (Part 2)
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Sports parents have a very important job, without them, and without them doing their “job” the coach’s job becomes nearly impossible. First off, a parent must provide the athlete; that is not just getting the kid to the gym, but providing a sport ready child. To clarify, let’s compare athletes to race cars: cars need good parts, good fuel and a good driver. Just like children need a healthy body (car), with a good diet of food, sleep and other various ingredients (fuel) as well as a good sound mind (their driver) to understand not only the “how to”, but the “why” of their activity. Without the race car in good shape, the coach has nothing to work with.
Next the parents need to balance reality for their child. They need to have their children juggle one ball for sports, one for school, and one for family. When a child/athlete drops a ball, they need to be there to help them recover and get the ball aloft again. Those two tasks, providing and balancing, are the parent’s most essential. Beyond that they need to sit back and observe, allow their child/athlete to do what they can, make decisions on their outcomes, wrestle with the results and unconditionally love them regardless of the win or loss.
Like parents, coaches and the athletes have their own jobs to do too. Though a coach’s job is more technical, they rely on the parent and athlete to fulfill their roles in order for them to carry out their own. Problems arise when the three sides of the triangle (coach, parent, and athlete) start to blur and overlap. When one steps into another’s role there is confusion, and for the child, that can cause great stress and usually results in the opposite of the one thing everyone intended to enhance; the performance. Problems also arise as well when the balance I spoke about is lost, when winning and sport is prioritized over education and family it will lead to the destruction of the child athlete. It may not happen overnight, but the slow attrition of breaking the child down is in action.
There are some common parents perspectives that lead to a child’s failure (understand that the term failure is not only in reference to sport). Most parents will read this information and disassociate themselves from the familiarity of the problems; they agree that it must be hard for a kid with parents like that, but not see that they might be “those parents.” I think we should remain open-minded. My son tried playing soccer last year but it didn’t take. I found myself in the position of having some degree of all of the characteristics evident in problem parents, and I am supposed to know better! I found that I wanted my son “winning” or playing well because I was never a good soccer player and really wanted to be. I wanted to be a part of the team at my school (after they cut gymnastics I sought out other sports) but I was not very good. I was a good athlete and I knew the value of training hard and always believed that hard work is its own reward. I knew that every parent on the team and other teams knew I was the “Gymfinity guy”, I had a reputation. I felt that I needed to show, not only that I was a good coach, but a good parent. So, all of the mistaken views parents have, the ones that caused me such pain over the years, I now embodied. I wanted my son to show that we are capable of playing soccer; I wanted him to do what I couldn’t. I wanted him to train with vigor and desire, the reaching and surpassing of his personal goals. And I wanted everyone to know, that when Owen scored his goal, it was because I was a great parent. Wrong, wrong and in so many ways, wrong. Owen was Owen. He played until it wasn’t fun. Like me, he isn’t a big fan of team sports, so I guess in a way I did get the “mini-me” I was after. And as for parenting satisfaction, at least I was better than the guy on his phone the whole game, which will have to be good enough.
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