Apr 27

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

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Guidelines and Suggestions – Part 2


5) Be Supportive In Your Role – But You Are NOT the Coach


Your role in the Athlete-Coach-Parent Team is to be SUPPORTIVE and act as a facilitator, that is helping to ‘make it all work for everyone!’ You need to be your child’s best and ‘unconditional fan’ but leave the coaching and instruction to the experts! You should provide encouragement, support, empathy, transportation, money, or help with fund-raising! Many parents do get into trouble because they seem to forget the truly important position that they hold. Trying to coach the child from the sides interferes with your role as supporter. The child does not need or want to hear your comments after a disappointing performance, or loss, or your technical or strategic analysis of committed errors or …what the child should have, could have done to win because you know better! Well, Mom and Dad, jump in the pool and swim the perfect 200meter butterfly race, run that race, play that game! That means loving your child unconditionally should NOT be based on his/her performance success. The biggest mistake you can make is to equate your child’s self-worth and lovability with his/her performance by responding with disgust, anger, and withdrawal of love and approval. Some parents even punish the child for a bad performance by withdrawing emotionally – not speaking, etc.

Keep your role as the parent on the team separate from that if you end up, by necessity, having to actually step in and assist in coaching due to some circumstance. You need a clear separation of your dual roles: “I’m talking to you as a coach” and at home “I’m talking to you as the parent.” In other words, avoid parenting when you coach and avoid coaching at home when you’re supposed to be parenting. Make the sport experience FUN for the child. The more FUN athletes have, the more they learn and the better they perform. FUN has to be present for peak performance to happen at every level of sports from youth to world-class competitors!


6) Personal Ambition? Convenience?  – Or – Your Child’s Goal?


What is the reason your child is participating in sport? Does he/she want the experience or is it your ambition? Is the child doing it because he/she does not want to disappoint you, or because it is important to you? Are his/her goals and aspirations the same as yours? Is the child participating because siblings are also on the team, and it is more convenient for you as the parent? How invested are you in his/her dealing with success and failure? If the child is competing to please you, or for convenience, or your vicarious glory, he/she is in it for the wrong reasons and so are you! Further, if he/she stays involved for your sake, ultimately everyone is going to lose. Obviously, it is normal for parents to want the child to excel and be as successful as possible. Yet, this is not going to happen by pressuring the child with expectations, by using guilt, or even bribery to keep him/her involved. If children have their own reasons and own goals for participating, they will be far more motivated to excel and therefore far more successful


7) Understanding that the Child’s Self-Esteem is Important in Your Interaction


An athlete’s performance, any age or level, is in direct relationship to the feeling of self-worth. When the child is in a sporting environment that raises personal self-esteem, he/she learns faster, enjoys him/herself, and performs better under competitive pressure. Children want to be loved, accepted and to have parents feel good about their involvement. When your interactions with your child make him/her feel good about him/herself, he/she will, in turn, learn to treat him/herself this very same way. This does not mean that you feel obligated to compliment your child’s performance with this overused and vague phrase ‘good job’ when in reality the performance was not successful. Find a positive aspect and praise the ‘good thing,’ i.e., …Your start was super, you had good turns, your sprint was good the first 50 meters, you passed the ball well! The child is quite aware of personal shortcomings and you should be empathic and sensitive to his/her feelings. Avoid interacting with your child in a way that degrades self-confidence and self-esteem by embarrassing or humiliating child alone or in front of others (what kind of performance was that? statement). If you minimize the accomplishments with negative comments not only will child learn to do this to him/herself throughout his life, but more importantly he/she will also repeat the same mistakes with his/her children later on!


8) Understanding that Failure is a Learning Process


Children need to learn to ‘fail’ and your job as parent is to teach and guide them in this process! The most successful people in the sports and in business world do two things differently than everyone else. They are more willing to take risks and therefore fail more frequently. They also use these failures in a positive way as a source of motivation and feedback to improve. Present day ‘helicopter’ parents (hovering over children to make sure every thing goes well) are actually doing their children a disfavor. Parents are so worried that society is generally negative toward failures. We have begun to ‘preach that failure is bad’, is a cause for humiliation and embarrassment, and something to be avoided at all costs. This fear of failure or humiliation causes children to be tentative and non-active. On the other hand, girls more so than boys can experience ‘fear of success.’ In essence, winning that race over one’ best friend is ‘not a good and social thing to do!’ Coaches know but parents need to understand that performance is a direct result of the athlete being preoccupied with these fears. According to sport psychologists, athletes need to fail because they obtain valuable information on improving their performance. However, being pre-occupied or concerned about success and/or potential failure interferes with optimal performance; it becomes the ‘blocker or red light’ (stop). You need to get involved and teach your child that set backs are part of living and you need to teach ways to deal with these. Allowing mistakes and risk-taking, you make it a positive experience for your child. This will become a milestone for a lifetime because failure is interpreted as the perfect stepping-stone to success. As the great Vince Lombardi stated: “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

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