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.

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


STATS DAD said...

Good post.

I coach soccer and I invite all the parents to scream and yell all they want on the sidelines - as long as it is encouraging. But I tell them that I would appreciate it if they do not try to coach from the sidelines. I inform them that they may be contradicting what the coaching staff wants to do or what we are working on. That, as your post points out, puts the kid in a tough position where they must decide between listening to their coach or their mom / dad.

I was coaching the tournament championship game for soccer one year. We coached the center striker to stand on-sides next to the opposing sweeper and wait and wait and wait for a scoring chance. We were up against a very talented team that put constant pressure on our defense. As a result the offensive players did not get as much action as they were used to. Our striker was a gifted soccer player with tremendous speed and a great ability to score. He waited calmly for a chance to make something happen.

His dad, a loud mouth who did not go to many games, was in the stands for this key game. During the game the dad was yelling for the kid to hustle more and go get involved.

The kid held his position throughout the game as he was coached, but the dad kept riding him. With 2 minutes left in a 0-0 game and frustration setting in, the kid finally gave in to the dad and moved out of position toward the action.

As the kid was moved away from his position our defender delivered a beautiful pass to space behind the opposing defense. Our striker was 15 yards out of position but still managed to use his speed and get to the ball. He got a shot off but it was contested by the defender and deflected. Had he been in position, he may have scored easily.

After the game, which we lost in a shootout, we instructed the player to stay in position and have patience in the next game - and if he had done so he would have had a better chance to score - the kid said I know, but my dad was yelling at me so much.

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