Parenting your Student-Athlete
Parents often strive to promote a balance of sports and schooling in their child’s life. Finding the right balance can often prove to be a difficult one to attain. Today schools work hard to provide children with a well-rounded educational experience that also includes a solid athletic program full of extracurricular activities. Some parents can become too involved in the various aspects of their young athlete’s success and they can be overly concerned with outcomes and performance. The majority of children that participate in sports start doing so because it’s a fun way to “play” with friends and other kids their age. As children begin to mature and grow older, they enter athletic programs where parents have less and less control. There are three main themes that parents should consider in order to allow for their child to have a successful interscholastic sports experience:
- Make Sports Fun: Research shows that the biggest reason students participate in sports is to have fun. Schools provide well-designed programs for student-athletes that are meant to challenge the kids. Working hard and making commitments becomes rewarding when the children are out there having fun. When parents start screaming at their child, other players, the officials or the coaches a stressful environment is created for everyone. Parents need to relax and enjoy the game knowing that the coach and the school is doing everything in their power to provide and promote the best experience for their child. Parents will often focus on only their child, but they need to also realize that decisions and actions of the coach are made to best serve the entire team. Parents need to motivate their children and give them positive reinforcement. Constantly criticizing them will only result in having a negative impact.
- Support your Child, the Team, the Coach, and the entire Program in a Positive Way: It is not only the players and coaches that can contribute to the success of the team, but also the parents. Supporting everyone involved in a positive way, not just for your own child, will unify the team and build everyone’s confidence. There is nothing worse for a child than feeling that they have failed their parents. They need to know that their parents have pride in them and love them whether they win or lose. Parents need to support their children and always be there for them, regardless of their performance.
- Keep it in Perspective: Coaches and athletes spend a lot of time together each day practicing and working hard to prepare for the upcoming competition. Whether your child is one of the starters or is one of the players that work hard against the starters in practice, they are all contributing to the success of that team. Parents who become dissatisfied with the coach or the program are often expressing their own personal desires and not that of their child. Parents who have legitimate concerns should certainly feel free to communicate with their child’s coach, but should also consider some simple communication ground rules when they do so
Tips for Effective Communication with your Child and their Coach
- Always be positive and in control of your emotions.
- Before or after a game or during a practice or game is not a good time to approach a coach or an athlete.
- Focus on your child’s best interests and not your own.
When considering talking to your child’s coach, use the communication triangle pictured here first. Channel all questions or comments about the program such as playing time, formations, plays or strategies through your own child. A good coach who is communicating to their team will pass along information to their athletes that will often answer parental questions. It may not always be the answer a parent wants to hear but it will be a great way to help their child learn to communicate. If the athlete does not know the answer or says “I don’t know” then the parent should ask the athlete to obtain the answer from the coach. Speaking to the coach directly will complete the triangle between the parent and coach, but should only be done in matters of health and safety.
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