10 Rules Every Athlete’s Parent Should Live By
These are cobbled together from the NCSA Athletic Recruiting Blog and my own experiences. I definitely recommend checking it out (www.ncsasports.org):
Each of us desperately wants our child to succeed in athletics. We’re all aware that our children can potentially reap many benefits from participation in sports: social status, character development, discipline, self-confidence, perseverance, self-reliance, a foundation of physical health & fitness, a strong work ethic, and an understanding of the value of cooperation in group settings. In very, very, rare cases a select few athletes may even earn the opportunity to trade or upgrade educational opportunity for sport performance. Even the most well-intentioned parent often has trouble getting out of their own way. It’s hard to differentiate between being protective and being over-protective. If you work hard to avoid several common mistakes, chances are that you and your child/athlete can emerge from the “sports experience” enriched rather that scarred.
Over the past 25 years (47 if you include my own personal athletic experience) I have observed some insane things on the sidelines – parents and coaches verbally abusing their own athletes, fans physically attacking officials, opposing parents throwing punches, parents screaming obscenities at other fans, Booster Club Officers arguing amongst themselves – ugly. It seems as though we have all gotten way too emotionally involved in our children’s sports. Have we forgotten that it’s all about the journey not the destination, the life skills & lessons learned, not wins & losses earned?
I have one of the best jobs in the world! Not a day goes by that some athlete doesn’t thank me and tell me that they “couldn’t have done it without me”. One thing I’m certain about and take every opportunity to explain to these athletes is that: “they did it, not me”. For parents no amount of screaming, heckling officials, calling coaches, meeting with school district administrators, backstabbing at Booster Club Meetings, showing up to watch practice would have mattered if your athlete didn’t want it. Your athlete has to fight, his or her own fight. Sacrifice for his or her own dreams.
Your goal as a parent should be to be supportive, try to embarrass your child as little as possible, give them the tools they need to achieve their dreams. Then, and this is probably the most important as well as most difficult step, parents need to get out of their athlete’s way. Decompress & de-stress a little bit. Enjoy the whole experience. Someday in the not-so-distant future, this “sports thing” will be over with and you’ll be calling to beg them to come home for the holidays. Believe me when I tell you this!
- It’s NOT about you, it’s about them. Do not live your own sports dreams through your kids. It’s their turn now. Let them make their own choices, both good & bad.
- NEVER, ever talk to a coach about your child’s play-time (or lack thereof) after a game. Actually you shouldn’t ever do this, period. You should have your child do this. That said, if you just can’t help yourself, send an email the next day and ask for some phone time.
- NEVER yell at officials. They are trying. How would you like it if someone showed up at your workplace and screamed at every decision you made? NOT-SO-MUCH. If you have a real issue, file a grievance the next day. Create an Ah-hah moment and teach your child that life isn’t always fair. That people make mistakes, and that they need to show people in authority the respect that we all deserve.
- DO NOT coach your child from the sideline. Your job is to be a cheerleader, not a coach. If you wanted to coach, you should have volunteered or applied for the job. A High School Athletic Director once told me that when you factor in the long hours a high school coach works – the job pays about 10¢ an hour. My father once told me that if you need to coach your child from the sidelines, chances that he or she has already lost. Sideline coaching most often leads to confused and dejected athletes.
- It is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY that you are raising a professional or Olympic athlete. I promise you. Relax. Let them have a good time and learn the life lessons that they are supposed to be learning through sports. Trust me when I tell you that they’re much more likely to learn a lesson from anyone else besides their parents. How many times in your childhood did you honestly learn what your dad was teaching?
- Remember that your sons and daughters aren’t professional athletes, and that youth athletics is supposed to teach basic skills and instill a love of the game. If they aren’t making mistakes, they aren’t learning. Likewise, if they’re not trying their hand (or foot, or stick) at multiple sports, how will you know what they’re best at? More importantly: How will you know what they most love? Forget what coaches (who now all seem to be making a living at coaching) say: DO NOT specialize until high school and allow your child to make the decision what that sport will be.
- If you have NOTHING nice to say, sit down and be quiet. Don’t be that parent. Sport Psychologist report that the 8 words that well-adjusted professional athletes most fondly remember their parents saying are “I’m so proud, I love watching you play!”
- If you are losing your mind on the sideline of a game, it’s time for you to take a serious look in the mirror and figure out why. It’s not healthy or normal to care that much about a game. Put that energy into something more productive. You’ll also be teaching your child an important lesson about life priorities.
- Let your child fail. If they don’t learn young that you can’t always win, it will crush them later when life teaches that lesson. If they don’t face adversity they’ll never learn how to pick themselves up. If they forget their shoes, don’t workout enough, aren’t practicing skills during free time – let them suffer the consequences. In the long run it will make them stronger and better people.
- Your kids are watching you. Show them what it means to be a good citizen of your community. Make them proud every minute you can, not embarrassed.
Nicholas Sita, PhD, LPT, MSOT, CSPC, CES, LMT