I have coached Lefty a lot in baseball. I could spend all day and night coaching him. Sometimes I wonder if he would rather have me as a coach or just a Dad. After, and I admit sometimes during, each practice or game, I have to fight back the temptation to keep coaching (a.k.a correcting). I sometimes bring a book to his practices to divert my complete attention away from every little detail of Lefty’s performance. Luckily, my wife gives me a good reminder to only praise Lefty after a practice or game and don’t bring up the negative. It can’t be fun to have your parents pointing out your faults after each practice and game.
Bruce Brown has spent 35 years as a teacher, coach and an athletic administrator at the junior high, high school, junior college and collegiate level. He as is the Director of Proactive Coaching and speaks nationally with athletes, coaches and parents. Bruce asked college athletes “What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?” Their overwhelming response: “The ride home from games with my parents.” Those same college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response: “I love to watch you play.”
Bruce put together Five Signs of an Ideal Parent. Here is your mission if you choose to accept it:
• Cheer everybody on the team, not just your child: Parents should attend as many games as possible and be supportive, yet allow young athletes to find their own solutions. Don’t feel the need to come to their rescue at every crisis (I am raising my hand in the air on this one, like I said, I am always fighting the urge to coach Lefty). Continue to make positive comments even when the team is struggling.
• Model appropriate behavior: When a parent projects poise, control and confidence, the young athlete is likely to do the same. And when a parent doesn’t dwell on a tough loss, the young athlete will be enormously appreciative.
• Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach: The mental and physical treatment of your child is absolutely appropriate. So is seeking advice on ways to help your child improve. And if you are concerned about your child’s behavior in the team setting, bring that up with the coach. Taboo topics: Playing time, team strategy, and discussing team members other than your child (I expect a thank you letter from Lefty’s coaches on this one).
• Know your role: Everyone at a game is either a player, a coach, an official or a spectator. “It’s wise to choose only one of those roles at a time,” Brown says (C’mon! I know I can do them all at the same time!). “Some adults have the false impression that by being in a crowd, they become anonymous. People behaving poorly cannot hide.” Here’s a clue: If your child seems embarrassed by you, clean up your act.
• Be a good listener and a great encourager: When your child is ready to talk about a game or has a question about the sport, be all ears. Then provide answers while being mindful of avoiding becoming a nightmare sports parent. Above all, be positive. Be your child’s biggest fan. “Good athletes learn better when they seek their own answers,” Brown says.
I will continue to take my wife’s and Bruce’s advise and “be my child’s biggest fan”. He is going to have plenty of coaches in his life, but he will only have one dad.