As many of you know I am an advocate for youth sports. The benefits of participating in team sports throughout our younger and more vulnerable years can be life-changing. Learning to compete is a valuable skill to acquire and apply to the many circumstances encountered through a lifetime.
In recent years, social media has been used as a platform for venting about youth sports and high school sports by athletes, coaches, and, mostly, parents.
Parents, STOP venting on social media. I know we need to vent and we want validation, but using the social media platform does more harm than good. It can tear a community apart and bring shame and embarrassment to children.
Coaches, we need to LISTEN to parents: being present with them, validating their concerns, and communicating, genuinely and honestly, with athletes and their parents. All of us do have the best interest of the child in our hearts, right?
Coaches, don’t admonish parents; they are doing the best they can. Many of us carry the emotions of our children in our hearts…when they hurt we hurt, when they’re frustrated we’re frustrated, when they’re happy we’re happy. At times we let those emotions get the best of us and become critical of the one person who we think has control over this, the coach.
Most recently I noticed a high school coach using social media as a platform to admonish parents. The post explicitly pointed out that parents must tell their children to listen to the coach, be a help rather than a nuisance, and lower expectations as to how being a part of the team would benefit the child.
The post subtly implied that athletes who complain about their role tend to quit which in turn leads to a lifetime of quitting and failure.
Not true! I hope we can all agree that there is no direct correlation between athletes who complain about their role, eventually quitting, to living an adult life of quitting and failure. Broad strokes like these aren’t effective at getting down to the issue at play.
What’s really at stake here? I argue it is the development of the child.
It’s fair for the child to question her role. All of us are wondering where we fit and how we impact the world around us, right? Be honest with each player. Help her see how her role directly impacts the success of the team. Praise her when she successfully fulfills her role, demand more of her when she doesn’t.
Coaches must be sure to show athletes respect; the sport is about the children, NOT the COACHES and NOT PARENTS. Celebrate hard work when athletes directly impact the success of the team. Demand more of our children when it’s appropriate. Given respect and appropriate expectations, athletes might be more inclined to listen with an open mind; in fact, they may develop the capacity to help their parents gain clarity in what is happening on the field.
The fact is, the one person who needs to be empowered is the child at the center of all the discontent between parents and coaches.
Everyone will be a lot happier and healthier if we can focus on the children; empower them to self-advocate and believe that who they are and what they do, no matter what the circumstance, matters in the world we live.