There was a story circulating that shows video of a parent pushing his 6 year old son off of a 13 ft skate ramp in a skate park in Florida. The video has been met with outraged responses, and it raises the question of how far is too far when it comes to parents coaching their young athletes...
The role of being a parent is one of the hardest, yet most fulfilling things anyone can do in their life. All parents want their kids to succeed and develop confidence in themselves. As their kids grow up parents are faced with situations that they have never faced before and lack experience and knowledge at times, especially when it comes to the delicate process of coaching their kids. Parents of young aspiring athletes play a critical part in the development of their childs self-worth and have a specific role in the process of helping them explore who they are and strive towards their potential.
As a mindset development coach, I challenge parents to step in and take the responsibility to guard their children from potentially disruptive or harmful coaching. Nothing will impede the self-worth and progress of athletic kids more than this one thing. Parents can find the power to “fix” this circumstantial problem with understanding empowering attitudes that will help them be a successful support system to their athletic children.
Problematic Mindsets for Parents
-Perfectionists- look to find value in themselves by seeing their kids strive towards flawless performance. This leads to a false sense of validation for being good parents because being supportive through disappointments is just as important to their kids.
-Seekers- focus mainly on pushing their kids to accumulate statuses, various awards, or any tangible levels of accomplishment. This leads to stress for the children more so than enjoyment of what they are doing.
-Controllers- will look to control the every move of their kids and schedule them in to hectic and pressure filled schedule. This excessive micromanagement often leads to kids not "owning" the process or the results of their athletics. Then, many kids then never fully learn how to accept responsibility for what they do or don't do- it's always someone else's fault.
-Allow Your Child To Own the Process
It’s important that parents understand that children need to be able to face their own fears on their terms. Feeling performance anxiety, nerves and pressure is a part of growing up and competing and performing. Developing the internal skills to cope with stressful situations is important for every child. As children are allowed to process these feelings they will find the inner ability to overcome these natural emotions on their own terms and avoid creating longer-term phobias, self-worth and confidence issues. Parents need to withstand the urge to intervene and take over this process for their kids. Instead kids need to hear that its ok to have fear or apprehension and then guide their kids with self-talk that instills confidence that they can learn to overcome the challenges they face. This process will help children be “human” and instill courage and self-trust.
-Kids Are Separate People
First and foremost, parents have to remember that, though your kids are modeled from you, kids are separate people with their own hearts, minds, and dreams. In my 20 years of experience, I have learned that, far too often, parents view their kids as an extension of themselves and therefore push their kids in directions that are more based on what they would want rather than what their children would want.
-No Unrealistic Expectations
Earlier in my career, I consulted with a world-class athlete who was struggling with performance anxiety as she competed. Through our discussions, she revealed that her mother used to introduce her to friends by saying, “this is Stacey, my perfect daughter.” She explained that, even at a pro level all these years later, she still feels the weight of her mother’s unrealistic expectations. “The saddest thing to admit is that I have gone through my entire pro career without ever truly enjoying what I do for a living. In the back of my mind I wasn't ever clear on whether I was doing this for me or her.”
-Know Your Role As The Positive Support System
Allow your kids and their coaches the chance to develop their skill. I had a teammate in college who was a top nationally ranked athlete when he was 12 years old. As he grew older each year his dad would get more involved with giving him his opinion on how to play the game. Over time this confused his son and distracted him from staying focused on following the development path of his very competent coaching staff. Pick the right coaches and let them do their job from the beginning. Stay focused on the role of being a positive support system for your child so your voice doesn’t get stuck in their head in a way that confuses your child or becomes a critical or negative voice.