Parents: What Your Athlete Needs From You
I’m not a parent.
I don’t pretend to know how hard it is to raise another human being. To do the crappy jobs no one wants to do... the literal crappy jobs, as well as being the carpool driver, laundry-doer, cook, boring school play-goer, alarm clock, teacher of obvious tasks, tutor, hand-holder, and all things I might not even know about..
But I have parents. I know they did a lot, and still do.
And as a coach and a friend of now-parents, I see how absolutely important being a parent is. So before you think I’m a critic, know that I respect the job parents do, and that it’s never-ending, always-challenging, and under-appreciated.
But specifically, I want to talk about being a parent of an athlete. Not the coach of your athlete’s life, but a parent.
Man, I’m about to keep you in limbo, because I know you feel that way sometimes: You want the best for your kid, but you are not the coach. And I know you don’t want to cross that line (right?). Coaches, I hear you too, hallelujah! Someone finally giving it to the parents.
Remember when you were a kid and your parents didn’t know anything. Yeah, you were the one in power. You, the kid, were certain you would figure it out on your own and that you knew best.
But now you’re a parent, and it’s all different now, right?
Sports give us these invaluable lessons of being a good team player, leadership, hard work, doing hard things you don’t want to do (yeah, I’ve used this line in an interview and it got me the job), and you gain lifetime friendships and memories, to name a few. These are some of the reasons you put your kids in sports to begin with.
I’ve asked kids about their least-favorite part about sports. Some will say it’s when they’re not good at something, or maybe they got an unfair chance… but so many kids will say their least favorite part of sports is the ride home from a game or practice… with their parents.
Let that sink in for a second.
Parents, I hear that you want the best for your kid. I hear that you only talk to your kid on the ride home about something you think they want to or need to hear… as if no one else (including the athlete him- or herself!) is saying these things to him or her. You want your kid to be the best. And you only have the best intentions.
But listen: It’s a tough job to grow up with such heavy expectations.
So many kids quit a sport, or sports all together, for whatever reason. I’m not saying it’s the parent’s fault. But, many kids feel like their worth and value are directly tied to the athlete they are, and the success they achieve, or don’t achieve.
“If I’m not the star, I might as well quit trying. If dad says I should have won, I am a disappointment.”
Research (not me, but more qualified people, who may be parents) says that athletes of all ages want to hear these six words more than anything else after a game:
“I love to watch you play.”
Not, “I can’t believe you missed that dig.”
Not, “You need to practice your blocking more.”
Not, “I can’t believe coach didn’t play you more.”
Not, “Susie doesn’t deserve to play as much as you.”
Not, “If only you were faster…”
Not criticism. They’ve got a coach telling them that. Heck, they’re telling their own self how they were not perfect. They are already blaming themselves for being human.
If you missed your kid playing, instead of, “Did you win? How many kills did you get?” try, “How did it go?” Then you open up the conversation to more opportunities to learn how your child is growing.
You know those lessons your kid set out to learn years ago? They’re learning them.
Not by scores and statistics, but by failure and getting up and trying again.
Parents, it’s your job to create a place of growth.
This means that your child is allowed to make mistakes. It means that you’re creating a safe place they can find their way. Kids need support to raise them back up after disappointment and failure. I mean, don’t we all wish for that?
If you are hard on your athlete at home about their play, guess who now doesn’t really want to talk to you about the other hard things going on? Because, if your athlete is in school at any age, there are most definitely challenging things happening, other than that thing you will not let go.
Parents, be parents.
Allow the coach to coach. Know that he/she doesn’t know your kid like you do; a mere few hours each week do not equate to ten, fifteen, twenty years of knowing someone. Your kids need your encouragement, advice, your love… no matter what.
Of course I think this is valuable and important, but what do you think? Can you give your kids this simple change and see what happens?
Thank you for reading. As always, I love your comments and sharing my writing.