Advice for Parents of Athletes
Posted by Dean Holden at October 2nd, 2015
by Josh Cordell, 8 September 2015
It’s a fresh start, a new school year, a new sports season and your kid may be playing on a new team. This is a great opportunity for you to be a new and improved sports parent. Here are three things I recommend for an improved sports experience for everyone involved.
“I love watching you compete!” – How you talk to your child after competition.
It’s so easy to coach your child the moment they get done with a competition. It’s also easy to tell them what should of happened. How they “should” have played, what their coach “should” have done… You have to ask yourself if you are enriching their experience or are you just alleviating your frustrations?
Competing can be scary! You have to put yourself out there and lay it on the line. To go out and compete only to have your parent, the most important person in your world, have critical things to say about what you just did is an experience zapper. What I mean by that is playing sports is an experience. When you are done playing, how you talk about that experience can either amplify it or zap it.
“I love watching you compete! It was so cool how you slid on that one play!” = Amplified!
“I wish you would give 100%, you look like your not trying your hardest out there.” = Zapped
Keep it simple and positive.
“What can I do to help?” – Being a positive part of the coach’s experience.
I’m headed into my 15th year as a head coach and the only time I’ve ever thought about giving up coaching, which I love, was after negative experiences with parents. No athlete, coach, administrator or game has ever left me questioning if I want to coach. But I can quote you three parent conversations that made me question if it was worth all the time, effort, energy and sacrifice that goes into coaching.
The coaches I know are good people. They want to make it a good experience for their athletes. They aren’t perfect and they could probably use your help. If you make yourself available to help, they’ll probably take you up on it. I’m not talking about being an assistant coach, sometimes that works for all involved. But I think the biggest help you can offer to a coach is to treat them with a thankful spirit and to offer up your availability. Little things like transportation, setting up chairs, offering to clean or repair something… wow, that goes a long ways!
“Go team!” – Be a fan of the whole team, not just of your child.
You are your kid’s biggest fan, I get it, you’ve got a vested interest in their success and happiness. That’s good. But you need to remember that they are going to learn a lot by being part of a team. They are going to learn the most from you and how you treat the team may set the tone for that experience. If you are a fan of the whole team, that’s going to facilitate your child being a good teammate. If you are critical of the team, the coach and everyone other than your child, what can you expect your child’s attitude to be?
I’ve had some amazing parents on my teams over the years. Here’s a few steps toward being a superstar team fan. Know the kids names. Cheer for them when they do something well. Don’t speak critically of anyone when you are in the stands (or ever if you can manage that). High fives for everyone. Point out great play by kids other than your own after competition.
I hope this can be of some help to you and that you’ll enjoy the experience of your child playing sports. It’s a small window that closes quicker than you think. I just had a parent of an athlete I coached against for four years tell me how much they miss the experience of their kid playing high school sports. Enjoy it!!!
If this is a subject that interests you, you can find more resources from Bruce Brown of Proactive Coaching.
Josh Cordell is the head boys tennis coach at Summit high school. His teams have won five state championships in the past seven seasons. He has also coached basketball.