Thursday, June 24, 2010

When a Player Talks with Mom and Dad in the Stands

One of sport’s benefits is that it helps a young child develop an increased sense of self-reliance. A child’s first steps into organized sports are a new and sometimes intimidating experience. Learning new skills, fitting in with peers, adapting to a structured environment all take a child into a strange new place.

Sometimes both the parents and their younger children are hesitant to let go of each other. For example, I substituted for a fourth grade boy in a basketball game a few years back and shortly afterwards, looked down the bench and saw that he was missing. I didn’t concern myself too much about this, as I thought that he had gone to a water fountain for a drink. Several minutes later, he had still not returned to the bench. I looked more closely around the gym and found him seated next to his parents in the bleachers, calmly watching the game, drinking some water, and engaged in what appeared to be a casual conversation. I had to wave to him and his parents to get their attention and indicate that I wanted the boy back on my bench.

Although the situation I described above is humorous and likely to occur only with the youngest, most inexperienced children, a more serious parent/child connection occasionally appears.

Sometimes you will see a player on the court or field looking up into the stands and either talking or making gestures to one of their parents. You may also see a parent constantly shouting out instructions to their child. A player, especially an older one, who is carrying on a discussion with a parent while playing, is engaging in a destructive behavior. Not only does this behavior potentially harm a player’s sense of self-reliance and self-esteem, but it also distracts the player from the game’s action.

If you find yourself interacting with your child during a game, barking out advice to the point your child is continually looking toward you, you need to realize the problems that this can cause and try to minimize this behavior. A wise coach will not tolerate this conduct and will tell your child to focus on the game and only listen to instructions from the bench. Your child’s coach may also approach you and inform you that this behavior is unacceptable.

I've coached a couple of boys who were good players and great kids, but unfortunately had parents who were constantly instructing their child from the stands. The lack of self-confidence played all over these boys’ faces and in their constant need for approval from both their parents and me.

Be a positive force in building your child’s sense of self-reliance—insist that your child concentrate fully on the game and control your own behavior during a game. Be a great fan to your child and his or her team. Let the coaches coach.