Kids can learn a lot from youth sports – including how not to act as a youth sports parent.
A friend shared this week that a parent in his son’s league has been incessantly texting a coach to complain about his son’s playing time. My friend lamented that this seems to be a new trend, but it actually is just the latest variation on the theme of the overbearing, helicopter parent.
Dr. Ann Dunnewold, a licensed psychologist, was quoted on parents.com defining helicopter parenting as “being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting.” I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of this on occasion – I would guess most parents have these tendencies from time to time. Yet some parents take this to excess.
Youth sports coaches are a special breed. Typically, there are two distinct types: the parent who is driven to coach because of a background in the sport and a willingness to share their knowledge and love of the game, and those who volunteer to coach because no other parent will step up to take on the responsibility. When we lived in Arizona, I ended up coaching my son’s youth flag football teams when the other parents took a step backward when the call to coach was issued.
In this case, I was fortunate because our team always was composed of kids whose parents had not requested a specific coach so their demands were not as great. Other youth sports coaches are not as fortunate.
Certainly, there are parents whose jobs or family responsibilities are so time-intensive that they are not able to carve out space for coaching. These typically are not the complainers, since they are grateful someone has stepped up to give their child an opportunity to play and be part of a team. The noise usually comes from parents who believe their child is destined for a professional career and those to project their child’s success to their own self-worth.
The irony is that those parents who rant to coaches about playing time or to their kids to encourage them to play better or exert more effort are actually undermining their kids’ chances for success and they are eroding their kids’ interest in playing the game. That behavior only embarrasses the child and drives them away from the game. I used to be that parent who was shouting at his kid from the sideline, and after catching my pathetic act on video I learned my lesson and shut my mouth.
Before chirping at a coach about playing time, a parent should do a self-inventory on how much time and effort they have invested in helping their own child learn the game. The time spent badgering a volunteer coach is better spent teaching your child how to field a grounder, how to dribble through traffic or the proper form for a lay-up. If you are ignorant in these areas and are unwilling or unable to learn the fundamentals, don’t criticize those who have made that commitment. Instead, show some gratitude to volunteer coaches who are donating their time to give your child a chance to play, learn and be part of a team.
We all want our children to be successful at what they do, whether it is sports, the arts or academics. We also should want them to enjoy the experience. Providing support and guidance is good parenting; so is stepping back and letting kids build their own success and appreciation for whatever they endeavor.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.