Sometimes It Is TOUGH Being A Sport Parent by Craig Sigl
After coaching her soccer team 3 nights a week, Mike always feels like it will be a crap shoot as to how his 13-year-old daughter, Beth’s mood will be on the way home. He also knows it tends to set the tone for the rest of the family, the rest of the night. Sometimes Beth is totally excited about how she played and other times, she sulks because of a comment from one of her teammates.
Since Mike has a hard time understanding what goes on inside a 13-year-old girl’s mind, he typically uses the car ride home to point out what Beth could have done better to improve her play. Beth, on the other hand, is afraid to say anything that might disappoint her Dad.
Beth’s mom, Jill can usually tell right away if something isn’t right and does her best to comfort her daughter, while juggling dinner, the dishes, the laundry, and getting everything ready for the next day. She can feel her daughter’s hurt and see the tears in her eyes, but just doesn’t seem to be able to come up the magical words that will make it all better as she sends her off to bed. Her brother, Jason comes home from practice, throws his backpack on the ground and without saying “hi” to anyone, asks, “what’s for dinner”. Jill, acutely aware of her children’s moods says, “chicken…what happened at practice today, Jason?” Mike’s ears also perk up as he listens to Jason complaining about his coach again.
He had taken his Dad’s advice and asked the coach for a short meeting before practice, so he could ask what it would take for him to get more playing time and what he needed to do to get his game to the next level. He was totally frustrated by the coach’s vague advice, “you’ve got to focus more”, “work harder” and “find your swagger out there on the court. Jason was now angry and frustrated with his dad, because he feels this has gotten him nowhere and he does not know what to do.
Does any of this sound familiar? Has this type of drama gone on inside your household? Most sport parents give me a resounding YES. We all want the best for our kids and want them to be happy and successful. Sometimes it is the system that parents bump up against… There are some great coaches out there, but mostly there are coaches that mean well, but don’t know how to help kids deal with the emotional side of their sport. Most of us encourage our kids to play sports to learn focus, confidence, how to be a team player, overcome adversity, develop a never give up attitude and the list could go on and on.
Sometime in your kid’s playing career, they will encounter a coach who says or does something in a way that could have a tremendous impact on your kid, good or bad. Unfortunately, a lot of young athletes think their coaches are gods and what they say is always the truth. This can be really damaging if the feedback is negative. In our trainings, we help kids get perspective on their coaches and as parents you should do the same as well.
Even if they have great coaches, parents need to understand a lot of young athletes get their validation as a worthwhile person from performing well and base their personal value on whether they win or lose. This can be devastating, if they don’t learn early on this is not true!
What you need to do as parents is to always refer them back to the reasons they starting playing in the beginning. Help them focus on the fun, the skill-development aspects of the sport simply for the challenge of mastering and improving and help them let go of the pressure to win. Remember they have to want it for themselves. In fact, they have to want it more than you want it. The most you can do is provide encouragement.
Some guidelines that might be helpful:
1. Before child agrees to play a sport, have them sit down and make a list of what that entails: the length of the season, weekend games, practices, packing their own bag, etc.
2. When a child needs to be disciplined, to take away a practice or game as a punishment. It isn’t fair to the team.
3. Commit to not becoming an over-involved parent so the motivation comes from within them.
4. Keep in mind you can use the setbacks as teaching moments and share some of your woe to win stories to help get them there. Make them up if you have to!
Don’t leave these teachable moments to the coaches. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. Your primary job, as a parent, is to provide them with a safe place to land ,when they fall or when things get tough. Our goal at the Mental Toughness Academy is to support you in supporting your kids to be the best athletes as well as happy well-adjusted kids that feel ready to take on the world. What are some of your teachable moments you had with your kids? Let us know in the comments below…
I’m Craig Sigl, the Mental Toughness Trainer for Youth Athletes (click on this link to find out how you can get into the Winner’s Circle!)