Avoiding Strategic Ambiguity

Parents generally mean well for their kids and they want them to succeed. However, to much parental involvement can actually hurt the athletes performance. That is why it is important that clearly see their defined role and excel at that instead of acting like a coach. Regardless, the parent should be supportive of the child no matter how poorly the athlete is doing. This blog will argue that parents and coaches should only emphasize their role or they will be seen as an obstacle. The parent and coach can facilitate an environment that promotes fun for the athlete by making it primarily athlete centered.

To begin, the FA Parent Guide gives the example of a soccer dad who acts like a coach but should be acting like a parent. Initially, the dad gave expectations on how to perform at the beginning of the game, while during the game the dad gave directions on how to perform often interfering with the coach's leadership, and the referee's credibility. At the end, the dad blamed the coach, the referee for the son's performance. Several things went wrong here, because the dad acted like a coach, he inadvertently did not allow his child to express himself or have fun in the game. The athlete's performance declined as well because the motivation for performing the sport was primarily extrinsic (his dad) (LaVoi). In order to change the athlete's attitude, the parent has to step back and be supportive of what the athlete does accomplish and what he does not. It is up to the coach to provide direction, not the parent. In addition, it did not help having the dad blaming others for the athlete's performance. However, the parent can provide criticism such as a 'Praise sandwich'. This is done by being specific on the athlete did well, following what the athlete could of improved on and ending with another compliment(Youth Sport Guide). By doing this, the soccer son would have looked upon the dad more favorably because it shows that the dad supports him by veiling criticism. This is important because it allows the coach to be a coach, while the parent can be act like a coach without necessarily being one. Being indirect promotes set roles. If it was not, there would be a blurring of roles and athletes will adapt it as a norm.

A similar example stems from Anderson and Aberman, instead of the parent acting liking a coach, the coach is acting like a parent (64). This is seen where a tennis athlete was sick of her dad giving directions. Because the dad never listened to her, the athlete resorted to the coach and started asking him pretty personal things. Because the situation became inappropriate, the coach decided to involve the parents watching the athlete practice. The coach was able to redraw the lines between what a coach does and what a parent does. Luckily, the athlete was able to see that. Because the coach knew his role and could see how it was becoming a parent role, the coach was able to differentiate and reestablish positive norms for both parents and coaches.

Blurring the roles between the coach and the parent is detrimental to the athletes because they will not see the positive example of either roles. If one acts like the other, the athlete assumes, the athlete can do the same once he/she gets older. This strategic ambiguity does not the help the athlete but only reinforces ill behavior. The coach and the parent have to realize, especially at youth levels, that athletes use sport to have fun, find a passion and explore. It is up to the parents to support these concepts and it is up to the coach to give direction and provide guidance within these contexts.


-Sam Suber ♫