I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Friday, March 15, 2013

Listen Up, Sports Parents!

I recently had a colleague tell me about the article that is circulating in social media from the The PostGame entitled, "What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent -- And What Makes A Great One."  As I read this article, I could not help but reflect how many times parents would be deemed the “bad parent." Sometimes it takes an outside source and some self-reflection to realize that as much as we are trying to help our kids, sometimes we actually can make things worse.

In the article, Reporter Steve Henson shares the beliefs of Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching, LLC, who are devoted to helping athletes, coaches and parents. As much as we all hope that we fit the “Five Signs of an Ideal Sports Parent,” there are going to be times that we fall into the “Nightmare” category. We are fiercely loyal and protective of our kids, and we have strong opinions about what is best for them and how they will achieve their potential. Nobody understands them better than we do, right? And parents never intend to make things worse for their children. In fact, the intentions are completely opposite. We always want what is best for our children, but sometimes the way we go about achieving that goal overshadows the overall purpose of athletics.

 Kids who compete know when they have done something great and when they have done something that took away from their performance. Athletes are usually the toughest critics on themselves, and the last thing they want is someone pointing out the mistakes that they are already dwelling on. This totally goes against what parents want, which is the opportunity to teach and correct. Athletes, especially children, are not going to take their parents' dissection of their mistakes as a learning opportunity. As the article states, the worst memory of athletics was, “The ride home from games with my parents.” And I will admit right now that I have been that parent. Countless times, I have tried to point things out from an athletic event that could be easily corrected. Countless times, it has led to a disagreement. I thought to myself, “I am a coach, I can give advice on these things," when in fact, I should have been taking the role of a dad that is fully supportive of my child. There is a time and a place for the learning to occur, but in those times after a tough game, the most important thing we can teach them is that we are their biggest fans, no matter what.

After reading the article, parents have to wonder if they can ever be defined as the “Ideal Sports Parent”? I think any time children have the chance to compete at anything, then parents have a chance to redeem themselves. Just as our kids are learning their sport, we can stand beside them and learn to provide better support. Brown and Miller recommend these ideas for becoming the “Ideal Sports Parent”:

1. Cheer for everybody on the team, not just your child.
2. Model appropriate behavior.
3. Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach.
4. Know your role.
5. Be a good listener and a great encourager.

These are simple tips that we could all bear in mind as we cheer for our favorite athletes. I hope that parents, coaches and athletes will take the time to read the article and think about ways to improve. The reward for our efforts is a solid and supportive relationship with our kids, win or lose, and that is a goal worth shooting for!

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