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Tangled- Parents as Coaches

You may be on the sidelines watching them but they are always on the sidelines watching you.

shutterstock_113919517 Parent InvolvementWelcome back to my 5 part series on Parent Involvement called Tangled! (Previous posts in series here). A tricky and often messy subject worthy of controversy. In this series, I’ll try and untangle the common parenting dilemmas related to our roles as disciplinarians, mediators, teachers, coaches and therapists.

And we think the biggest battle in America is between political parties? Well then you haven’t been to a kids soccer game recently!

Open up your collapsable chair at your own risk. And pack a concealed weapon. Duct tape.

Parents as Coaches pic

I’m sad to say our country has gone over the edge and our kids will pay the price.

Competition is valued over cooperation and winning is paramount over effort. Being a “good sport” isn’t going to earn extra playing time but being a “sore loser” might land a starter position.

I’ve been a competitive athlete since I was seven. All 3 of my kids played competitive sports. I have been on hundreds of sidelines and lugged more coolers of Gatorade than I care to remember. Our family cherishes over 20 years of memories of sports participation.

And then there are the not so pleasant memories.

  • Our son’s baseball game where the head coach used profanity in the dugout and threw his coke in disgust at his own team’s performance.
  • The tournament match where my daughter’s opponent threw down her tennis racquet and stormed off the court because she lost a game.
  • The soccer game where a father threatened the teenage referee because he disagreed with a call.
  • The father of a 12 year old player who made his daughter watch his entire videotape after the game so he could critique her performance.
  • The mother who cried all the way to her car, while her player lagged behind, because she didn’t make the top soccer team.
  • A player so angry with her teammates when they made a mistake that she wouldn’t speak to them at practice.

Like an irate driver behind a windshield- bleachers, dugouts and sidelines have become safe havens for out of control behavior.

Individual and team sports can teach our children teamwork, discipline, fitness, sportsmanship, and respect. Kids can feel the exhilaration that comes with a close win and the sorrow that follows a tough loss.

Yet our children are learning lessons that more closely resemble a reality TV show.

Parents who care more about a goal than a grade. Parents who push their kids into so many activities they don’t have time to breathe. Parents whose dream for a college scholarship trumps all common sense. (About 2% actually receive college athletic scholarships).

I’ve witnessed parents so distressed that their child didn’t make a team or didn’t play to their ability in a game (or so they think), that from a distance you’d think they lost their job or received a terminal diagnosis.

We have to stop using “potential” as a way to blame our own children for not meeting our expectations.

Attention Parents and Coaches!  We need to regain our composure and perspective.

And when we do, we need to teach our student athletes to do the same.

We seem to have forgotten:

  • Don’t make your child stick with every sport or activity they try.
  • Just because a sport was your forte doesn’t mean it’s your child’s.
  • What you say on the sideline impacts players, coaches, officials and other parents.
  • Cheer for everyone’s children.
  • Kids need downtime that isn’t structured and organized.
  • Don’t tolerate or justify abusive coaches and players. Winning is not a justification.
  • Don’t bombard your child with “you should of’s” right after a practice, tryout or game.
  • Take clues from your child about his or her performance before you impose your own perspective.
  • Respond to your own player’s inappropriate behavior or language on and off the field.
  • Value participation, effort and fun. 

Just this week at my daughter’s soccer game, one of our girls became irritated at a defensive player hovering close to her. The opposing player was not doing anything illegal. Our player screamed loudly with an aggressive arm gesture, “Get off of me!”  The ref calmly warned our player that was unacceptable and that she could get a yellow card if it happened again. The parents on the sideline screamed at the ref.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again where parents reinforce poor sportsmanship by their own child, their own team. The more the other team violates the rules, the more we encourage our own to do the same.

We shouldn’t tolerate behavior on the field that we wouldn’t tolerate at home. Parents are willing to stoop to any level as long as it levels out the playing field. If the official isn’t spot on, parents have no problem revealing their dark side.

Why do we put sports in such a bubble where ranting, aggression and abuse is not only acceptable but encouraged? Does it take a smartphone video of Rutgers coach, Mike Rice, to prove we’ve crossed the line?

Win at all costs.

And we wonder why our pros are using performance enhancing drugs and killing their girlfriends. An NFL coach offering money to his players to blow out an opponent’s knee! What’s next?!

Our little leaguers are next. With the pressure to be the best, their self worth will be linked to their performance, not their effort. Our high school football players will seek out the latest designer steroid to give them that competitive edge. Abusive coaches and over zealous training regimens will dominate more youth programs. Administrators will turn their heads because a winning program brings money and recognition to the school.

The boundary will be pushed further because parents aren’t pushing back. Not because we’re weak or timid. Because we are part of the problem.

As parents and coaches, we have some serious soul searching to do. We need to let our kids have fun and be the best they can be. That day. That game. That moment.

Our young athletes should be rewarded for effort, dedication, sportsmanship and attitude. These qualities travel well through life because let’s face it, we don’t close a sale every day, get every promotion, or agree with all of our boss’s calls.

Life if full of almosts and near misses. How we teach our children to play and react determines their destiny.

"It's amazing what can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit." John Wooden


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