Sports is the Hand, Parents Should be the Glove

There are a lot of factors that youth players have to deal with on and off the field. School work and house work seem to collide on a near daily basis and it seems that a lot of the time kids seek the stress relief environment of sports to unwind from time to time. They may get hounded at by a coach or a teammate or two, but they know that when they go home, they can come back to their everyday life and get back to work. But what happens if those stressors that may arise on the playing field come home with the athlete and add to the pressures of everyday life. Parents that are fans and parents that are coaches are in a crucial position with their child and they don't always remember to think about how their actions might be affecting their child.

In the Anderson and Aberman reading, it discusses how important it is for young athletes to have a solid relationship with their parents and that when athletes begin to dissolve the relationship with their parents and begin to rely on their coaches for love and support, lines can be crossed and the attention of focusing on becoming a better athlete can shift towards wanting a new role model in his or her life (Anderson & Aberman 2006). The example of this can be seen within the coaching pyramid that involves the coach, the athlete, and the athlete's parents. If a coach can successfully build a strictly coaching relationship with his or her athlete but at the same time make sure that the athlete has a good support system at home, then they will have an athlete that is eager to participate in sports and can reap the benefits of having both an athletic role model in their coach and an everyday role model in their parents.

When parents don't provide a positive support system for their child, it can lead to things such as burning out, losing interest in the sport, or picking up bad habits that might hinder their performance. In the two videos that I watched (FA Parent Guide, Background Anger Hockey Video) they gave perfect examples of how fans, including fans that have children playing in the game, can ruin sports by their behavior. The videos showed parents doing things such as blaming referees for making their child's team lose, questioning the coach's game plan (telling their child the opposite of what they have been taught), and complaining that their child isn't being treated fairly on the team and that they should be given preferential treatment. While they think that by saying these things they are actually helping their child's playing ability and self-esteem, they are actually creating a negative environment that can cause one of many problematic issues for the athlete.

Sports are a great way for kids to learn many valuable skills. They learn how to exercise, socialize with peers, and work together as a unit and sometimes individually. For parents, when it comes to their child's sports, they need to find a role that suits them and their child correctly. Some parents are able to be a great coach for their child and can balance being a father and a coach. Other parents are contributors from the stands and are willing to go to games and practices and cheer on their children. It's great that parents are willing to be a part of their youth's athletic experience, but they need to be able to ask themselves, "What does my child want me to be when it comes to sports"? Some kids don't want to see their mom or dad as their coach and would rather have them just sit in the stands and support them that way. It's not bad for them to want this, it is just the way that they want their parents to support him or her. Too often do parents become a coach or a screaming fan and never realize that it is affecting their child's performance on the field. They need to be able to sit down with their son or daughter and just ask the simple question about how their child wants them to support their athletic career.

I can draw a great example from my personal life that deals with parents being good role models in sports. My dad was a ranked college tennis player at Hamline University and still plays to this day. Even though he was a high caliber athlete with a diverse background in sports, he always asked me what I wanted to do when it came to sports. He never pushed me into anything and would always remind me that he would only coach and instruct me if I asked him directly. He still showed up to my games and whenever I needed help with something he would be there to help me out, and for that I cannot thank him enough. I credit my continual love of sports to him and am happy to say that I had such a positive role model as a young athlete.

Parents can be great role models for their children as long as they are committed to listening to what their children desire as far as support goes. They need to take a serious look at themselves and understand that what they are doing may not be benefiting their child as much as they think it is. Opening the lines of communication between parents and their young athletes, and also those athletes and their coaches, can do wonders for the well being of the athlete.

Anderson & Aberman (2006). Why Good Coaches Quit. Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice

The FA Parent Guide.

Background Anger Hockey Video

Through a Child's Eyes: Parents' Guide to Improving Youth Sports.