As a school psychologist and a former youth basketball player, one of the most fascinating and frustrating aspects of youth sports is the intersection of parenting and coaching. Many parents today have a difficult time understanding their role as parents of a youth athlete and the coach’s role of coaching the child. What often happens in this situation is a parent damages their relationship with their child, and tears down the passion the child once had for the sport.
The reason I am fascinated by this topic is that my own father also struggled to understand the role the parent for youth athletes. Often I’d find myself being torn down because of a lackluster basketball game, and inappropriately being put on a pedestal when I played well. What resulted was me losing passion for the game, working less at it, and growing apart in my relationship with my father.
If you want to see an example of parents who have lost all sight of their role, I encourage you to watch the documentary Trophy Kids. In fact, this program should be required watching for every parent who has a child playing sports.
So, here’s a message to all parents with youth athletes. You are not their coach! It is not your place to tell them what they did wrong, and what they did right. It is also not your place to scream at coaches, refs, and other players during games.It is sickening to watch those of you guilty of this destroy your child’s confidence and destroy your relationship with them for the sake of your own selfish hopes and dreams.
Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, what should parents do for their children who play sports? It is simple really. What parents need to do for their children is to guide them. If your child has a conflict offer them options and allow them to figure out how to solve their problem given the options they have. If your child has a good or bad game, do not offer your judgement of the performance. That is the coach’s role. Instead, offer a level headed and supportive approach no matter what happened on the court.
By being the appropriate, supportive parent to your young athlete, they will be able to have ownership and develop their love for the game without it being forced upon them. This is critical since ownership is one of the biggest motivators for the human psyche.
Giving your child the right parental support will lead to better outcomes in sports. Allowing the coaches to coach, and allowing your child to evaluate their own performance will make them better players and more importantly better adults in the future.