5 Tips for Parents of Athletes
I have referenced Janis Meredith in my blog before. She has some terrific resources for parents with kids in competitive sports. One of her posts a few weeks ago was titled "10 Things All New Sports Parents Should Know". Here is her list:
1) You will see negative parenting.
2) It could get expensive.
3) You will have coaches you don't like.
4) Officials will frustrate you.
5) Your kid might not be a star.
6) Your child will not always want your help.
7) You will be stretched as a person.
8) Youth sports might get political.
9) You will love watching your child play.
10) Your child could get injured.
I don't think this only applies to new parents, but all parents of kids in competitive sports.
In a previous post, I talked about the Team Triangle with regards to effective communication - Parents-Coach-Athlete - mostly from a coach's perspective. I have also been a parent to three teenaged competitive athletes and as such, I have maybe a different understanding of the "triangle" having been in all three roles. I think if there is an overriding element to being a good "sports parent" it would be that you have to understand there are unbelievable opportunities for your athletes to learn life lessons within the structure of a team setting.
So, here are my 5 pieces of advice for parents of competitve athletes:
1) As much as possible, let your athlete advocate for them self. This, of course, is dependent on age but, try to let players communicate with coaches as much as possible themselves. Whether it be a quick e-mail or phone call to say that they are ill and can't make practice, or a sit down meeting with a coach to ask questions about something related to the team. Coaches respond better to their athletes than their parents and, you are teaching your child a great lesson in speaking up for themselves and self-advocating.
2) Always support the coach. You won't always agree with how your athlete's coach is running a team (in fact it would be rare if you did!) but, you are doing your child a disservice by voicing your concerns on a regular basis. Part of a good team is that everyone buys into a vision and systems of play. If you as a parent is undermining the things that a coach is trying to accomplish then the team, and your child, will not be able to succeed.
3) At the beginning of the season, make sure you understand how the coaching staff is going to coach the team. Be clear about expectations with regards to playing time, team rules and guidelines, discipline, etc. If there is something that you are uncomfortable about it needs to be addressed before it becomes an issue.
4) Be positive. Or maybe more importantly, don't be negative. When your athlete is in the car after a game, he or she doesn't want to hear about how bad the referees were, how coach played certain players too much, how the other team was poorly behaved, etc. Instead, be positive. Talk about the great plays that occurred during the game. Ask about what was fun for your athlete. Or, just ask what they want for dinner. In my experience, players often mirror how their parents are feeling about the team and the games they play. So, it's important that we as parents stay positive for the sake of our kids.
5) Unless there is a risk of physical or emotion harm to anyone there probably isn't any reason to talk to the coach about how he or she is doing their job. Instead of charging to your athletes rescue, find ways to make tough situations better. No athlete is going to go through a whole season without some bumps along the way. Encouragement and good advice is the key to keeping things on an even keel. The vast majority of coaching staffs have a plan and enough expertise to coach competently. Let them do their job and as parents, we will do our job.
I encourage you to read my last two blog posts "Why I Coach" and "7 Ways to Develop the "Team Triangle"". It is my hope that we can all strive to communicate effectively as parents, coaches and athletes to create environments where our kids can enjoy their sports experiences and, at the same time, learn valuable life lessons.