Here is the second of my four-part series on what it takes to be a winning parent when helping your child in sport.
The first part, in case you missed it, can be viewed here.
Step four: Be supportive, don’t coach!
Your role on the parent-coach-athlete team is as a Support player with a capital S. You need to be your child’s best fan. Unconditionally. Leave the coaching and instruction to the coach. Provide encouragement, support, empathy, transportation, money, help with fund-raisers, etc., but… do not coach! Most parents that get into trouble with their children do so because they forget to remember the important position that they play. Coaching interferes with your role as supporter and fan. The last thing your child needs and wants to hear from you after a disappointing performance or loss is what they did technically or strategically wrong. Keep your role as a parent on the team separate from that as coach, and, if by necessity you actually get stuck in the almost no-win position of having to coach your child, try to maintain this separation of roles (i.e. on the deck, field or court say, “Now I’m talking to you as a coach”, at home say, “Now I’m talking to you as a parent”). Don’t parent when you coach and don’t coach at home when you’re supposed to be parenting.
Step five: Help make the sport fun for your child
It’s a time proven principle of peak performance that the more fun an athlete is having, the more they will learn and the better they will perform. Fun must be present for peak performance to happen at every level of sports from youth to world class competitor. When a child stops having fun and begins to dread practice or competition, it’s time for you as a parent to become concerned. When the sport or game becomes too serious, athletes have a tendency to burn out and become susceptible to repetitive performance problems. An easy rule of thumb: If your child is not enjoying what they are doing, nor loving the heck out of it, investigate! What is going on that’s preventing them from having fun? Is it the coaching? The pressure? Is it you? Keep in mind that being in a highly competitive program does not mean that there is no room for fun. The child that continues to play long after the fun is going will soon become a drop out statistic.
Step six: Whose goal is it? It’s your child’s sport!
Number five leads us to a very important question. Why is your child participating in the sport? Are they doing it because they want to, for THEM, or because of YOU? When they have problems in their sport, do you talk about them as “OUR” problems, i.e., “our jump isn’t high enough”, “we’re having trouble with our flip turn” , etc? Are they playing because they don’t want to disappoint you, because they know how important the sport is to YOU? Are they playing for rewards and “bonuses” that YOU give out? Are their goals and aspirations YOURS or THEIRS? How invested are YOU in their success and failure? If they are competing to please you or for your vicarious glory, then they are in it for the wrong reasons. Further, if they stay involved for you, ultimately everyone will lose. It is quite normal and healthy to want your child to excel and be as successful as possible. But, you cannot make this happen by pressuring them with your expectations or by using guilt or bribery to keep them involved. If they have their own reasons and own goals for participating, they will be far more motivated to excel and therefore far more successful.