Being a Good Sports Parent (Part 3)
I appreciate your hanging in there, I hope this is helpful.
There are some very definitive descriptors between the over-zealous parent and the supportive and positive parent. Sometimes they are subtle and sometimes they scream. The obsessive parent always seeks to have their child noticed, overtly or covertly, they want their child recognized. How else will anyone know that they are a good parent? They are often dissatisfied with effort being good enough, they are only happy with tangibles; like a “W” in the column or a trophy or a medal. These parents don’t give their child/athlete any room to make decisions or the strength to deal with the repercussions of those decisions. Yet when the parent is the one dictating the game-plan they only have criticism for the child who carried out their failed plan. These parents often don’t see they’re to blame for the failure. “I just want what’s best for her,” is a mantra and every time I hear it, I know that the next sentence is going to be all about the parent. A good sports parent allows their child/athlete to make some of the decisions that affect their performance. Obviously the younger the child, the harder it is to allow them to make decisions, but you might be surprised how much thought is happening in that little brain. You have to listen for it, but to be supportive you should develop that skill. After the soccer season, my Owen tried basketball. First day of practice, he stood, motionless, for 15 minutes holding the ball. Other kids played around him, the coach encouraged him, other parents cheered for him to at least bounce the ball, but nothing happened. I stepped out to change my other son’s diaper (ah, parenting), and when I returned was told that he hadn’t even flinched. That didn’t take “super ears” to hear that message. So Owen wasn’t a baller. OK.
But what if you think you have a really talented kid (everyone thinks they do) and you want to see him/her excel. As a coach let me offer you the game plan, the same one that I would ask you to follow if your child is training with me, the same one I follow with my sons.
Step 1: Focus on the basics. Work on the character skills that lay the foundation for success. Model and reinforce traits like hard work, dedication, integrity, humility, trust, respect, responsibility. Show and provide support regardless of outcome. Get them healthy food and plenty of sleep. Reinforce their education; there is nothing sadder than a NFL millionaire who can’t string together a simple sentence.
Step 2: Focus on the skill basics. Simple physical literacy can be learned by interaction with a variety of activities. Not to be self serving, but gymnastics is a great activity for any child; it lays, not only the basic physical foundation for success, but provides all of the traits listed in step 1.
Step 3: Teach them that decisions have repercussions and that they have to be OK with however things turn out. Explain possible outcomes on either side of a choice and allow them to choose. The only way to change the outcome of any particular action is to make better decisions before acting. This is also called developing lifelong strengths.
Step 4: Teach your child how to set goals. Teach them how to make S.M.A.R.T. goals and they will understand all of the lessons in Step 3.
OK, got it? This is pretty easy stuff. But like me, you may think you have the concepts but do you have the practical application? I learned a lot about coaching and parenting from my first son. Though I wanted him to be a champion, I will have to wait for him to show me the vehicle he wants to use to do it; maybe gymnastics, maybe architecture (he’s amazing with Legos). Maybe my other son Emmett will be a great soccer player; I’ll have to wait for them both to show me their strengths.
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