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HOW TO DESTROY YOUR CHILD'S ATHLETIC FUTURE IN 3 EASY STEPS
Posted by Matt Russ on December 10, 2015 2K
In over two decades of coaching athletes I have had the pleasure of seeing some of my junior athletes make it all the way to the professional level. Along the way I have developed a somewhat global perspective on what it takes to go from this point A to the very distant point B. I worked with some wonderful parents that contributed greatly to their child's successes. But I unfortunately witnessed more parents, sometime unwittingly and always with the best intentions, sabotage their child's athletic future. If they had just heeded a few simple rules, or examined a few of their motives, not only would their child been a better athlete, they would have been a better competitor, happier, and healthier child.
If you are find yourself excited at the potential of your child's athletic career, I invite you take an objective look within. And if you catch yourself doing any of the three following things, I can all but guarantee your child will not end up where you believe they will.
1. Imposing your own ambitions upon your child. I find it interesting that some of the most accomplished athletes I have known are not the overbearing parents you might expect when it comes to athletics. In fact they may take a somewhat laisez faire attitude towards their young children's athleticism. My personal opinion is that these parents have a greater understanding of the developmental process. Laying the foundation, learning the skill sets, and graciously handling the pitfalls competition are put above awards and accolades. They are intimately familiar with the long timeline and sacrifices required to get to the top of a sport, and even the odds of getting there. They tend to be more respectful towards the coaches and patient with the coaching process. They in short have gained a perspective most of us do not possess.
Parents that have not experienced competition simply never developed the mental skills sets required of an athlete. They may be experiencing athletic competition for the first time through the prism of their child; which can be a very slippery slope. Others believe their child represents a "second chance" at righting the wrongs of their not so illustrious athletic past. At any rate the most important thing to understand is that a pre-adolescent child has three basic motivations for participating in a sport: to have fun, to socialize, and to please their parents. Too many children end up just doing the later, and that almost never works for long. These kids seldom last in a sport to high level competition, and may even end up quitting their sport, after years of development, because it is an convenient way to rebel against a parent. Post- competition, often the first words I hear from parents are evaluative or criticizing when they should be simply "did you have fun today?"
2. Over-specializing too early. I once consulted with a somewhat anxious dad regarding his injured daughters training. The doctor had advised three weeks off of training to allow her injury to heal, but he felt this was too conservative and that his daughter would give up too much ground by taking this time off. She was NINE years old by the way. Obviously he had his own agenda in mind and not his daughters best interest. I seriously doubted that she would still be competing in her sport at twelve.
There has been an astounding rise in orthopedic injuries among children in the last decade. This corresponds with the rise in early single sport specialization. Kids are training too hard, too often, too repetitively and way too early without a proper foundation. Training and coaching programs have capitalized on this, often ignoring orthopedic guidelines for training children in favor or showing early results to the parents. Children do not have a stable enough platform to put high volume training upon, especially during growth phases. Injuries to growth plates, vertebral discs, meniscus tears, and tendon/ligament strain can leave a child with permanent damage. The body is not designed to repeat specific movements over and over, especially at an early age. We are designed for multi-planer movements which is more akin to "going outside and playing" vs. training. If you really want to develop an athlete from a young age you do just that- develop them. You develop skill sets and general coordination, strength, and agility that is age appropriate. A good coach/parent should be charting growth phases and adjusting training load accordingly, monitoring rest and recovery, teaching and imposing proper nutrition, and developing mental skill sets. Yet these equally important areas of opportunity are often neglected. The bottom line is that if your child is getting chronically injured, or even if their team mates are sustaining a high level of overuse injuries, the coaching and training system is failing your child no matter how well their top athletes are performing.
3. Focusing on a Single Sport. It is somewhat logical to believe that the more time spent training a sport the better an athlete will become over time. And no doubt the occasional Tiger Woods comes along. But this mentality more often leaves multiples of young athletes broken down on the side of the road. Developing an athlete is like unlocking a door. You must have exactly the right key, that engages all the tumblers of the lock, to open the door. Training is just one of the tumblers- not the key.
A child will not self-actualize in a sport until adolescence as I mentioned above. In order to find out what they are really good at, really enjoy, and really want to succeed at they must try a number of things. This is good, this is healthy, and it keeps them from burning out in a single sport. But too many parents see a bit of talent of aptitude and want to call it their child's "sport." Participating in multiple sports or activities may even help prevent the injuries associated with over-specialization. You should be asking your child if they want to try different sports, or even gently prodding them to do so. Over time they can narrow their focus. Joining the traveling soccer team at an early age may keep your child from finding out that they were more talented at (and passionate about) baseball.
If your child is under the age of twelve, and you find yourself on the sideline with the words "champion," "scholarship," and "phenom" swirling around your head you likely need a perspective check. One of the hardest lessons you will have to learn is that at some point they will get to decide if they want to continue in a sport. And there will be nothing you can do to make them compete if they no longer have the will or desire. It is a simple fact that all your hours in the car, thousands paid out for coaching, and years spent attending games and practices will likely, statistically, lead- nowhere. But that is not to say that they will get value out of the experience of competition. Sport can bring out the best (and sometimes the worst) in both athlete and parent alike. The values taught and gained on the athletic field will be far more valuable than any award; values such as sportsmanship, honor, integrity, fitness, hard work, and team work. Your relationship that you develop around your child's competition will have a huge impact on their future. The decisions you make as a parent will have a tremendous effect not only on your child's athletic development, but their health, well being, and ethics. Choose wisely.
Matt Russ has coached and trained athletes up to the professional level, domestically and internationally, for over 20 years. He has achieved the highest level of licensing by both USA Triathlon and USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and Field coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and coaches athletes of all levels full time. He is also freelance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines and websites. Visit www.thesportfactory.com for more information or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
10 Tips for Soccer Parents on the Sidelines; Bruce Reyes-Chow; April 29, 2014
A few years ago I wrote a post about soccer parents, but that point, I did not imagine that we would now be one of “those” families, driving to soccer games in different cities, spending the night in hotels and paying buckets of money to play a sport that many of us just went out and played in the park after school.
Yes, I’m old. #getoffmylawn
In any case, here we are with two girls on prep-level club soccer teams, playing in tournaments and more travel looming just around the bend. Good. Grief. Honestly though, I do love watching them play. In fact, I love watching my kids do anything that helps them grow as human beings, sports or otherwise. I love seeing them work through struggle and disappointment. I love seeing the excitement and joy that pulses through their bodies when something goes well. I love that they are each finding their way and building community as they do so. And I especially love being right there on the sidelines, seeing first-hand a beautiful game played most often with beautiful spirits by all involved.
What I do not love are the times when we parents ruin it.
Oh you know what I mean. Every youth activity has them: stage parents, dance moms, soccer dads, etc. These are the people whom we each believe we ARE NOT, but more often than we would like to admit, probably ARE. We believe that our child is the center of the universe, we know all things about all things and we are not afraid to share it . . . loudly on the sidelines.
You know you might be one of “those parents” if you notice that, over the course of the game, the other parents slowly back away from you as if to say, “That guy? Have no idea who he is?” So just in case if you find yourself in this position – yelling from the sidelines while no one around you joins in or makes eye-contact – I would like to help with a few tips for soccer parents that I have gleaned over the past decade of sitting on and cheering from the sideline.
10 tips for soccer parents on the sidelines . . .
Truth be told, I wanted to just have one tip, “Don’t be an a$$hat” and then each subsequent tip would be, “See rule #1.” While this would be kinda funny, this is not actually helpful for those who are actually trying to figure out helpful behavior. Besides, do most of us actually know when we are being jerks? Probably not. So to pre-empt your sideline YouTube fodder, here are, what I hope, some helpful suggestions for those of you who stand on the sidelines watching your child kick the ball around the pitch.
1) Cheer — don’t coach.
Unless they are on your sideline, they probably don’t hear you anyway — and odds are you don’t really know what you are talking about, so you will just confuse and distract them doing what their coach wants them to.
2) Cheer as if you were an NPR Producer.
Just as NPR tells five stories about other topics for every one story about themselves, cheer for the other kids on the your team. “Great defence Asha!” and then “Good thinking Anna!” and then “Woohoo L.T.!” and then “Sweet move Chloe!” and then “Way to be aggressive Alivia!” and finally, “Super, fantastic job being you, my awesome offspring!” See, doesn’t sound QUITE as parent-braggy when you are also encouraging the other players on your team.
3) Don’t address players on the other team.
I still can’t believe how many times I have seen a parent yell at a player on the other team. Seriously, please do not dress down an 11-year-old kid no matter how much you want to. Just remember how much you LOVE it when someone confronts or disciplines your child and refrain from from doing the exact same thing. Unless it’s to offer a “Good game number 5!” in the parking lot, go to the other coach, but never get at the kid.
4) Acknowledge when the other team does something well.
A good “Great job keeper!” after she goes horizontal for a sweet save or “Nice defense #12!” after particularly stellar play goes a long way to reinforce good play and remind folks that soccer and team sports is so much more than the game, but an amazing way to build community.
5) Stay in your area.
If you play in a city like San Francisco where the fields are less than spacious, you cannot always avoid sitting right next to or being interspersed between the parents from the other teams. While it would be ideal to have some separation, it is not always possible. No, what I am talking about is the parent who walks up and down the entire sideline coaching (see #1) and does so in front of both sets of parents. It takes all of my willpower NOT to “accidentally” stick my foot out and trip him in on his 10th time walking in front of us yelling something out to his kid.
6) Think it, but don’t always say it.
Generally a good rule in life, if I had a dollar for every time I have said something that I should probably have kept safely locked up in my mind vault, I would be rich. Sure, you may think the other player is slow, or that your kid should be starting over another kid, but you really don’t need to share that with the rest of us – the rest of us who may or may not be the parent of the kid over whom you think yours should be starting over. Awkward. Abby Pugh, SF United Futbal Club
7) Don’t assume that every call is against your team.
Now I am not saying that every referee gets every call right, but unless there is some elaborate bookie scheme going around with people making money on youth soccer games, I highly doubt that any referee is out to get a team. Plus many of the refs you will see are kids themselves, so seriously, chill out. Refs are doing the best they can, trying to keep your kids safe and helping them to learn how to play the game of soccer. And on the rare occasion where there is some question of referee competency or approach, each league probably has a mechanism to file a protest or leave feedback.
8) Don’t rush onto the field.
I have been there. It is oh so tempting to rush onto the field and pull your kid into your arms when they go down. Resist the urge to do so. Remember, soccer is a physical game and sometimes they just need a minute to find their breath, shake off the sting of a ball to the face, or just walk off a cramp. Parents rushing the field often make things worse, and odds are that the child will be embarrassed. Trust me, if it’s bad, the ref and coach will call you over.
9) Maintain perspective.
Hate to break it to you, but your kid is most likely NOT going to play in the Olympics. Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Offended, I mean every kid except for YOURS! But seriously folks, even if your kid is exhibiting great skills at an early age, talking about college ball when your kid is 11 seems a tad bit over the top (See Tip #6). We have such high expectations for what they do or accomplish that it would do us well, to remember that these are still children and our job, as parents, is to help nurture them into who they are meant to become, and not to put undue pressure on them to become who we think they should be.
10) Learn the rules.
If more of us actually knew the rules of soccer, especially offsides, the sideline insanity would be tempered quite a bit. My advice is to find the parent who REALLY does know the rules, is not intense and is willing to help the cheering section learn the rules and nuances of the game. Nothing is worse than being the one who blurts out, “NO WAY!!!!” as everyone else looks away as if to say, “Actually, yes way.”
Remember our kids are watching, listening, and taking note of who we are and what we do. Despite the outside influences in their lives and the aloofness that can sometimes be communicated, I believe that they will mimic is small ways our approach to the game and life — so we have to get it together on the sidelines, in the car, in public, at home, etc. It’s hard enough actually playing the game of soccer, but while also dealing with school, social pressures and the struggles of being a young person today . . . we need not add to the drama by exemplifying the worst parts of youth sports, but rather we should lesson it by demonstrating the best.
Former Marietta High soccer coach to be honored - MariettaTimes.com News, Sports, Jobs, Ohio, Community In . . .
DEVOLA - Back in the day, Jerry Brock sometimes officiated soccer matches right after guiding the Marietta High boys varsity team against an opponent. The longtime Marietta attorney was a very busy man, had an abundance of energy, and was obviously passionate about the sport. He spent a lot of time at the Marietta Soccer Complex in Devola. . . .