COACHING YOUR OWN KID

By Dr Alan Goldberg - Sports Performance Consultant

A lot of parents start off by coaching their own children. This is a very difficult balancing act to pull offVERY DIFFICULT! I recently was asked a question about this by a coach-father who noticed that he was being much harder on his son than the other players. He also noticed that his boy was no longer having fun playing. He asked, "At what age should a parentshould stop coaching his kid?" Here's my response:  

You'll find a lot of articles on the topic in my newsletter archives as well as shorter ones on my mental toughness blog. However, to directly answer your question, the time is NOW! If you are sensing that your son is starting to have less fun then it's time to let someone else coach him.

 A lot of parents coach their kids in the beginning as the child enters youth sports and competition. The problem is that this is a very difficult dual role to pull off. One important role of a coach is to push a child outside of his comfort zone, and to criticize, to provide helpful feedback on what needs to improve. The problem is that this role directly conflicts with a parent's primary role which is to love your child unconditionally.

 In sports, more parents get into trouble when they start coaching, either formally or informally from the sidelines. This is because our kids need us to be there for them when things go badly. They need us to be supportive and loving. They don't need us to push them, criticize them and be hard on them. Even in the best of situations it is very difficult to coach your own kid.

One critical litmus test of whether things aren't working in this precarious relationship of parent-coach is the fun level of the child. When your son's fun leaves the sport, both you and he are in trouble. If he's not having fun, then most likely he's spending practices and games feeling badly about himself and that he's letting you down. Without fun he will be vulnerable to burnout and performance problems. If your criticism and pushing is one of the reasons for his unhappiness, then chances are high that continuing to coach will strain your relationship together.  

 If your son wants to and regularly asks, work with him on his own, get his rebounds, help him out, but find another competitive situation for him to be involved in where someone else is doing the coaching. It will make your life and his much easier and it will improve your relationship with him. And, as far as I'm concerned, this is what's really important. It's not whether he excels in basketball and becomes a star. This is the little picture. It's your long term relationship with him that really counts. Long after he puts the basketball away, when he's fully grown and has a family of his own, hopefully you guys will have a solid loving relationship. This is what's truly important. Don't let basketball get in the way of this.     

HOW SHOULD YOU HANDLE YOUR CHILD-ATHLETE'S SLUMP?

By Dr Alan Goldberg - Sports Performance Consultant

So what should you do when your child suddenly falls into a slump or hits one of those ALL TOO COMMON performance plateaus? First off, DON'T HIT THE PANIC BUTTON! Slumps, blocks and plateaus are a normal part of an athlete's experience. That's N O R M A L!!! They don't necessarily mean that there's something dreadfully wrong. In fact, how you as the parent respond to your child-athlete's performance problems can have a significant impact on how quickly they will move through them.

The most important thing for you to do when your child starts to struggle is to stay calm and relaxed. Let your child see that you are not at all troubled by their temporary difficulties, because, in most cases, the problem will be temporary. By staying calm and relaxed you communicate this to your child and thus, help him or her not make too big a deal out of their struggles. 

Part of your job here is to also help your son or daughter keep a long term perspective about their growth and development within the sport. When you look at the bigger picture, you will always see these kinds of performance bumps in the road. I know an Olympic gold medalist who hit a two year performance plateau as an early teenager. He didn't drop any significant time for TWO YEARS!!!! Did he feel discouraged during this time? Absolutely! Did he entertain thoughts of quitting? Actually, a few times. The point here is that the low times are part of the process. Getting through these tough times is what it takes to ultimately be successful. During these struggles, it’s your job to encourage your child to keep on keeping on. Help them understand that hard work and perseverance will eventually pay off.

Also, be sure that you stay positive with your child and don't let his/her feelings of discouragement or negativity color your attitude as the parent. If your son or daughter has a bad game or two and is predictably miserable, don’t you spend the rest of the afternoon and evening sharing their experience! If you allow yourself to get that over-identified with your child, then you have lost your ability to be helpful to him/her. Maintain a positive attitude and stay away from negativity. This means that the very last thing that you want to do with your child is try to be “helpful” by pointing out all of the things that they are doing wrong and that need to be corrected. This kind of response to your child’s struggles will blow up in your face, demoralize your child and keep him/her stuck even longer.

Finally, be supportive and be empathetic. Your kids need you that much more when they struggle. Plateaus and slumps will eventually pass. If they linger and persist, then there is something else going on that needs to be addressed. That’s when it’s time to consult a Sports Performance Consultant like myself.  

13 Steps to Being a Winning Parent

If you want your child to come out of their youth sports experience a winner (feeling good about themselves and having a healthy attitude towards sports), then they need your help! You are a vital and important part of the coach-athlete-parent team. If you do your job correctly and play your position well, then your child will learn the sport faster, perform better, really have fun and have his/her self-esteem enhanced as a result. Their sport experience will serve as a positive model for them to follow as they approache other challenges and obstacles throughout life. If you "drop the ball" or run the wrong way with it, your child will stop learning, experience performance difficulties and blocks, and begin to really hate the sport. And that's the good news! Further, your relationship with him/her will probably suffer significantly. As a result, they will come out of this experience burdened with feelings of failure, inadequacy and low self-esteem, feelings that will generalize to other areas in their life. Your son/daughter and their coach need you on the team. They can't win without you! The following are a list of useful facts, guidelines and strategies for you to use to make you more skilled in the youth sport game. Remember, no wins unless everyone wins. We need you on the team!