Apparently that column I did a couple of weeks ago about yelling parents resonated with a lot of folks. I believe I received more mail and comments on that one than any I’ve done in 33-plus years (yeah, hard to believe that I’ve been writing this column that long).
Somebody who may have been one of those parents asked the best question of the week. “You got on that dad that was yelling positive things to his son, so what is a parent supposed to do?” Good question.
My immediate answer was let your child be coached. I felt like that was what this dad was doing — coaching from the stands. I’ve seen that sort of thing too often.
You may recall the story of how my son and I resolved this issue. He was probably a sophomore in high school and we had just gotten home from his football practice and I was still coaching him. I recall the moment vividly. He was sitting in my recliner when he said, “I’ve got one dad and nine coaches.”
Enough said. I became his support system after that. More on that in a minute.
“What is a parent to do?” Coach them. Volunteer. Every league out there is probably looking for coaches. You’re not qualified? Yes you are. I’ve told you how I coached the first real soccer game I ever saw.
If you care, if you are willing to learn, you can coach. I’m not telling you it is easy. Sometimes it will seem like you’re herding cats, especially with younger kids. But if you are dedicated to making it a learning experience for your team, if you are committed to keeping it fun, then you can coach.
It’s easy to coach from the stands. You see things differently. Maybe you see the games through your child’s eyes. You definitely see every mistake the officials make (I talked about that a couple of weeks too). I would suggest that you look at it from the eyes from the last kid on the bench. Or maybe the parents of that kid.
Sure, the game is on the line, but that kid just wants to get into the game. To play just like everybody else. Oh, maybe they aren’t very good. Maybe their parents are just trying to get them interested in anything. Maybe their parents are just trying to help them be more active. It may be more important for that kid to have success than it is for your kid.
I coached AAU basketball for several years. I often did this one thing that usually riled the parents up. One of my players would make a mistake, a turnover, a bad pass, and I would leave them in until they did something good and then I would take them out of the game. While their parents might have been yelling at me for taking their kid out after hitting a big three or making a steal, the kids knew what I was doing. They would get to the bench and I would ask them what they did wrong. They always knew.
I wanted them to come to the bench not focusing on what they did wrong but what they did right. And to feel good about themselves.
Maybe you can’t coach, but there are other things you can do as the parent of a young athlete. Sit in the stands, cheer every good thing that the team does. Don’t fall into the trap of cheering when the other team makes a mistake. I hate that.
When the game is over, the game is over. The last thing your child wants to hear is your game summary on the way home. It’s OK to practice with them. We spent many, many hours shooting hoops on our driveway basketball goal. We had a jumping gym in our garage. I threw endless hours of batting practice.
Most of all, be their support system. Lift them up when they’re down. Let them bask in their own glory when they’re up. Don’t be their coach, don’t be their friend. Be their parent.