If you’ve had children in youth athletics for any amount of time, chances are pretty good that you’ve seen your share of out-of-control parents. Some worry it’s become a national epidemic.
Bruce Brown is a long-time coach and motivational speaker who works with coaches, athletes and sports programs nationwide. He’s written a number of great books and produced videos designed to improve the competitive experience for our youth athletes.
We thought our ABGC families might enjoy reading these words of wisdom from kids who were interviewed after their high school athletic experience had ended.
What do your parents do at games that really make you feel great and proud to have them present?
o Cheer for everyone on the team, not just certain players
o Just having them there tells me that it was worth my time
o Support us win or lose
o Not getting on the refs, players or coaches
o Support me even when I am not playing much
o Cheering and encouraging at appropriate times in a civilized manner
o Cheer for us, but not too much
o Remember that we choose to play for fun and everybody is trying their best
o Don’t be too hard on your kid – give them some room to grow, but stay by their side to help them grow up
What do your parents or other parents do at games that make you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable?
o Argue with the ref – it is annoying for everyone
o Try to coach the coach
o Discouraging comments to players
o Yell at you when you are trying to concentrate
o Criticizing athletes or coaches, calling them by name
o Yelling advice makes me play worse
o Cheering if the other team makes a mistake
o When parents boo
o Telling me what I need to do better when they don’t know how to play the game
o I feel sorry for my teammates whose parents yell at them. When I play, my job is to listen to the coach, not my parents.
o When they don’t agree with a call, they yell, “come on” or “what was that?” etc.
o Let me be who I am, let me enjoy myself out on the court and don’t try to improve my game with your negativity
As we think about how many of these things we might be guilty of ourselves, here are a few terrific suggestions for parents:
Excerpt from Confidence – How Parents Can Help Build a Confident Athlete
Confidence Builders know when and how to let go:
Your athlete will grow and learn more when it becomes their experience. Self confidence increases when the athlete feels in control.
If you want them to be confident, don’t do things for your kids that they can do for themselves. It is essential for confidence building that the athlete learns to take care of and stand up for themselves. In order to be confident, the athlete has to take responsibility for their own actions and choices. They need to learn to be decisive and the only way to do that it is to let them make decisions for themselves. Stop trying to help make all their decisions or win the game for them from the stands.
Encourage healthy risk taking. There is not a better place for a young person to take risks than in athletics. There is not a better place to have a young person make their own decisions than on the court or field. If they are wrong they can learn and correct it. If they take a risk in a car, they may not come home but if they take a risk in a game, the worst thing that can happen is they might lose, in which case you hug them and they go to practice the next day. Healthy risk taking is part of becoming confident.
Don’t protect them from failure and don’t treat it like it is more important than it truly is. Failure can be a tremendous mentor and it is inevitable in sport. If you catch yourself always trying to prevent your athlete from failing, you are cheating them from some of the great lessons athletics can teach – courage, perseverance, mental toughness, resilience and humility. Temporary failure tests confidence and teaches that although you may not always succeed, it is how you react to failures that is truly important for the competitor. Be there to support and encourage them to examine the experience for lessons that will make them stronger. Model the toughness and determination you expect them to learn.
Finally they need to learn to stand up for themselves. Knowing how to interact with adults in their lives is a skill confident young people possess. The most confident athletes I ever coached had the ability to communicate clearly and easily on an adult level. That came from being raised in a household where they were listened to and where they were taught it is OK to express yourself even if you disagree as long as it is done with respect.
Learn to release your athlete to the care of the coach and let them develop a relationship away from you. Once you know that your child is safe emotionally and physically, one of the best things you can do for their confidence is to allow them to have other meaningful adult relationships. Even though the coach may not say or do everything the way that parents would like, this might be the one other person outside your family that will allow your athlete to walk through life with their chin held high if we give it a chance.
Choose your time and type of communication carefully with your athlete. Let them bring the game to you. Remember that eighty percent of our communication is body language. What is yours telling your athlete?