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May 29

Becoming the ‘Winner’ Parent on your Child’s Sport Team – Part 3

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Guidelines and Suggestions – Part 3

 

9) Understand That Challenging, Threatening, Or Bribing The Child Is Harmful

Parents may use guilt, directly or indirectly, and even threats to ‘motivate’ the child to perform better. According to experts, this may provide short-term results but the long-term costs, emotional and psychological health on sport performance can be devastating. Fear as a motivator is probably one of the worst dynamics in the parent-child relationship. Threats (do well or else!) take the Fun out of the child’s involvement and competition, and often is the direct cause for bad performance. Is it possible that that parental behavior reflects anxiety or doubts about the child’s performance results? Attitude and body language, subtle or obvious display of behaviors, communicate those beliefs, and definitely impact the child’s efforts. On the other hand, challenging the child to a better performance (‘we know that you can do it – let’s give it our best efforts’ statements) does not entail loss or negative consequences should the child fail rather represents an empowering belief that “I as a parent think that you can do it.”

 

10) Understand The Importance Of Process Versus Outcome

When young athletes focus on performance outcome, ‘I MUST Win’ the pressure is on and performance usually goes ‘downhill’ because there is a tendency to choke under pressure, and they perform usually far below their potential. Instead, they should concentrate on performing on the given task (good start, fast turn, stroke length, fast run, good pass, good catch etc.). If these are performed to best ability, goals and efforts or personal ‘best’ times will be the end results. Most elite athletes, when achieving their peak performance, are totally oblivious to the outcome because they are completely absorbed in the so-called ‘NOW’-zone of their performance. Any focus on the outcome and the ‘what if’ worries always distract from their performance, evidenced during play-off series when the goal is cored in the last two seconds! In addition, sport always presents the 50:50 chances of winning and loosing. The potential outcome is always out of the athlete’s control to some degree – even if prepared to the utmost. In swimming or track sprinting, races are won by a ‘fingernail or a ‘chest stretch’ as my saying goes. Worrying about the potential outcome raises not only personal anxiety and fears but can result in body tension, leading to somatic discomfort and symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, sweat, dry-mouth, etc. This definitely impacts the expected performance level. If parents really want the child to succeed, help to get his/her focus away from the importance of the competition and encourage concentrating on the task at hand. Supportive parents deemphasize winning and put importance on learning the skills and performing to the best ability.

 

11) Understand Differences In Children

It is unfair to compare Your Child against Other Children! The supportive parent avoids such comparison to evaluate or assess the child’s progress or performance. This is useless, inaccurate and destructive because children mature at different rates. Any comparison ignores significant effects of developmental differences. For example, boys may have the same chronological age but vary greatly in their growth and developmental rate. Some have the build and perform like a 14-year old while another, the late ‘bloomer’, may have the physical size and attribute of a 10-year old. Performance comparisons tend to discourage otherwise talented athletes. For example, my son was 5’4” (1.65m) at age 14. His goal was to play professional basketball, which everyone thought as ‘hilarious at THAT height’! He was an outstanding All-round athlete with a vertical jump of 42 cm, played basketball and volleyball at his school, held the record in the high jump for City school athletes, and won the Provincial (state and region) championships in the parallel bar and floor exercise in gymnastics. He also played Tennis and got a Tennis scholarship to play at an Arizona University. By age 22, he was 6’6” (1.98m) and played successfully at the World Beach Volleyball Tour for seven years. Indeed, he could have played basketball BUT was ridiculed for his ‘dreams.’ I was supportive all along and believed in him and encouraged him to ‘stay with it!’ The only value of any comparisons lies in the teaching and guiding your child. If others demonstrate proper or better technique, you should encourage your child to watch and learn from them.

 

12) Teach The Child The Realistic Perspective

Modern sports media tends to overemphasize winning and losing, making it out to be larger than life. It is, however, just sports and life will go on whether you win or loose. The ‘win at all cost’ perspective is often demonstrated in youth sports as programs become more and more ‘miniature adult’ versions of professional sports! Young athletes come away from competition with a distorted view of themselves and the way they performed. Indeed, there are more important aspects in life than the sport event, namely family, friends, academic performance, etc.! Parents need to help children to develop realistic expectations about themselves, their abilities, and need to encourage them to follow their dreams. Lifetime best time and coming in ‘dead last’ is a cause for celebration, not depression! I had many of those experiences as an athlete and definitely learned from them! In one case, I swam a best ever time but was 5th in placement. The media ‘hunted’ me with questions “what happened there”? Well, my personal goal was to achieve best time … AND it just so happened it was good for that final 5th place finish. Was I upset? No, I had reached my goal and the next time I set my dream to finish in the top 3 – a realistic goal at that time AND it happened! On the other hand, losing the championship did not mean that the sun did not rise the next day and I was less worthy in my efforts and pursuit of excellence!

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