This “tongue-n-cheek” entry is in response to a recent post titled “10 Things Parents Should Stop Doing Now”. It made rounds last week and caused quite a bit of stir. more people than usual made negative comments and voiced their opinions. Normally I ignore the negativity. In this case, I thought “why not create a list of things parents should START doing?” Don’t let the negative sentiment about you stop you from all the good things you do, parents.
10 Things Parents Should START Doing Now
10. Social share pictures of all the great memories your kid is creating. When it pops up 1 year later – re-share.
I don’t have a trophy case. I have a memory case. At some point the trophies become rusty, dusty, sold at yard sales, but the memories last a lifetime. Share the memories your child is creating with everyone. Family on the other side of the world, old friends and teammates, your neighbors. Facebook has enough negative stuff today, so spread a little cheer. A couple of warnings: DO NOT use judgements, slanted comments, or bias. Post it without the humble brag, the analysis, or the results. Simply post the memory and let others fill in the blanks on the situation. Most don’t care if your kid scored 9 goals in the 8-year-old age game. They simply wanted to see that glorious smile and a child having fun. You love that smile too.
9. Sit with your team and communicate with your kid via positive body language, thumbs up, and smiles.
Where does the child always look after a fall or after a success? To the sideline. They want to please us, they want to see us tell them it will be okay, they want to know they are supported. Sit with the other parents, create a positive, supportive, unified community for them. No need to say anything to the refs, judge the coaching, or make comments about the play. Simply watch, cheer a little, and give them a thumbs up to let them know they are doing great or to keep trying. Your positivity can be contagious for the other team and the other sideline.
8. Say it is about “fun”. Fun leads to hard work, joy, confidence, passion to play the game, intrinsic motivation.
Same drum. Still beating it. Kids play sports to have fun. Continue to reinforce this to them and be sure the experience is still about fun. When they get too concerned about the uncontrollable, remind them it is about fun first. Children define fun in sports about 81 different ways and those ways include working hard, being with friends, being challenged, learning new skills, and, of course, succeeding. If they are having fun, all the things you want for them will arise from that emotion and it will be internally driven from here forward. Win/Win. Keep making it fun.
7. Support coach, club, and team values and philosophy, especially during “kitchen counter conversations”.
See #2. If you are in the right club, with the right team, and have a great coach, trust them. Many times, coaches forget or simply choose not to tell you what it is they are trying to accomplish, but you have to trust the process and support them. When you are remodeling your house, it can be chaos, look a total mess, and seem way off course, but the end product usually turns out how you wanted. Same with developing athletes. You don’t question the contractor the entire process of remodeling, do you? Even if the coach is using a method you don’t understand or agree with, if no one is being harmed, it is following team values, and within the rules, let it ride. I’ve seen coaches try to teach teams to “play out of the back without punts” in soccer, and parents, not understanding what was happening, stage a coupe. Take a pause and see how it plays out, first. The coach most likely has a long-term plan (just like your child’s math teacher). If the coach is making bad decisions that are harmful, remember your child learns just as much through dealing with this adversity as anything else. Some day your child may have a job, a boss, a teacher that is difficult, but if they learned to persevere and still respect the authority, they will be better off for it. Don’t trash coach at dinner. Support him or her or support the process. I was a very high level coach, and when my sons played soccer, trust me, I wanted to step in and question things, but it was their experience, their team, their turn. So I had to learn to let it ride and simply support coach. In the end, they were much better off navigating it on their own with me there in support.
6. Spend quality family social time with other team members during travel games. Make positive memories. Keep avoiding those “it sounded like a good idea at the time” moments.
My best memories are from road trips. As a kid, we experienced the new cities, saw museums and attractions, and spent time with other families building great memories. I do not remember the games, the scores, or the outcomes, but I do remember the friends, the good times, and the feelings I had when I was on those trips. Of course, my memory case is filled with things that remind me of those memories – tickets, patches, little kitschy tourist shop gifts, and photos. I once played for a team that road-tripped all over the country in conversion vans. All us kids would pile into the vans to spend time together, and all the parents would organize social outings to bond. In fact, we would invite other teams to join us. That is an even better memory! Be careful about getting too crazy or doing things that set a bad example, but please do spend time with your “sport family” and build memories. This also creates great connection and long-term relationships. Some of my best friends were parents with whom I spent quality time on road trips, and the kids had a healthy, happy, family experience.
5. Realize your own contributions to your child’s resilience, calmness, and confidence and do more of that!
Just as much as you could contribute to the anxiety and stress of your child, you can also contribute to the calm, the resilience, and the “grit”. Be a “present” person in the process, support your child, be available, and talk openly. The more you model the behaviors, the more your child will pick it up off you. If we took a chill pill on the sideline and in the car, our children could benefit greatly from it. When they are anxious, we have a chance to be calm and let it calm them. We have a chance to talk about strategies for relaxing, for channeling nerves into performance, and for realizing it is “a game” and to not take ourselves so seriously we lose sight of the true mission of youth sports. If your children learn to adapt emotionally and psychologIcally in sports, they will carry that skill in all they do in life too.
4. Talk only positively about all players. If you need to discuss something with coach, talk only about your child.
Our children proxy our emotions and behaviors. If we talk badly about other children on the team, they also mimic it. This can lead to resentment, poor team dynamics, and even bullying. Only say positive things about other players and encourage a team ethic and team values to your child. If you have nothing good to say, say nothing. In addition, when speaking with coach, respect boundaries and only talk about your child. No comparisons, no driving the bus over other kids (metaphorically), and no trying to sway coach opinion. The moment you bring up another kid in a negative light, we stop listening to you because we know where this conversation is headed. The easiest way to build a great relationship with coach is to first have your child talk to the coach, and then if you need to, ask what you can do to support the process, and what you can do to help your child get the most out of the process. That question is much easier to address than “why is Joe, who is slow as a turtle in quicksand, getting more playing time than my Johnny?”
3. Include rest and non-sport activities as key parts of the “training cycle”. Ensure that balanced activity diet.
Rest is key to performance. Many great governing bodies and great athletes understand this and add it as part of the training periodization. You should add rest to your regimen. Your child will not fall behind because she took a winter session off the sport. Seriously, it is okay to rest a season. In addition, I am a big advocate of the “BAD” system. I tell my sons and daughter they need to be “BAD” to succeed. Let me explain: BAD stands for balanced activity diet. Pick a variety of activities that meet the needs of a child (like the balanced plate in nutrition). They need physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, and psychological development. If one activity meets all of these, you are very lucky. For the rest of us, this means doing sports and probably other non-sport activities. My boys, for instance, are currently doing Muy Thai and Civil Air Patrol. Those two cover all the needs for now and are non-negotiable. If my sons want to quit one, they have to replace it with a similar activity that balances the diet. Just as I won’t let my son eat carnival food at every meal (he would), he cannot play video games all day long without the other activities to balance things. In addition, we schedule reading/study/quiet hours for the boys to recover, because growing body needs to rest to grow and strengthen. If Olympic athletes use rest as part of the cycle, certainly our children can too.
2.Choose a club, coach & team that models the values you want your child to learn and stay with them.
Let’s be brutally honest. You will painstakingly pick the perfect school, doctor, church, and babysitter for your child. You agonize over who you expose your child to and what kind of affect that person would have on your child. But you will shell out thousands of dollars and leave your child for hours a week with anyone who says they played the game, have a coaching license, or get kids scholarships without any concern for who they are as a person. Seriously, I know many AWFUL drivers who have licenses but I wouldn’t dare get in a car with them. They may have driven cars for 30 years on NASCAR tracks, but that doesn’t mean they can teach me how to drive. Doing and coaching are different beasts. Why do we think because somebody puts playing experience on their resume, they can coach our child? Let’s get real. Playing experience does not correlate with coaching ability. Get picky about where you send your kid to play. Coaches are the most influential people in a child’s life at some point, so make sure that coach is modeling the things you want and teaching your child to be a better person and succeed beyond the game. You should be choosing your coach for the values, the character, the life skills, the person you want your child to be when he or she grows up and not because the coach has a winning team or played Pro sports. Enough is enough with following blindly behind the bully clubs and coaches just because they get results. Those results come at a price, just ask the 70% of kids over 14 who no longer play the game. Find your “sport family” to assist in raising your child and stick with it.
1. Be your child’s biggest fan and tell him or her every chance you get “I Love Watching You Play”.
I cannot stress this enough. Saying this reinforces everything and gives the needed support. They are smart enough to monitor their own progress and know how they are doing. In addition, coach is also providing feedback in a positive and effective manner (if you did your homework and chose well). Your kids need to know you love what they do and who they are not how they do and where they play. That’s it. You are not being soft. You are not creating a weak generation. Science is backing this thought, so stop listening to the people who say we are softening the next generation with this…they have no science behind their claims, they are simply recreating the environment they had and the science on sport has changed since then. The status quo doesn’t work. Your kid needs to feel loved. I am 43 years old. The other day both my mom and my dad told me how they loved what I do for a living. At 43, it still caused me to feel like that 9 year old boy again. I knew I was loved, supported, and valued in their lives. If it works on this old guy, it is what your child needs.
Parents, we appreciate you. We need you to enhance our role as coaches. We support all you do and together we can help our children succeed beyond the game. This requires coaches allowing parents in and parents working with the coach in positive ways (as outlined by our Top10 List).
Keep doing the great things you do, ask us how you can support our role, get very picky about who coaches your kid and do not fall for the “results” argument. And hang in there. You have allies on the other sideline.