As I am finishing up my volleyball coaching season, and knowing that many of our students are participating in the TTCC baseball/softball programs, I thought this would be a timely article. I have had the opportunity to be a collegiate athlete, varsity coach, patched softball official, and spectator watching my nieces, nephews and godchildren. There are many ways in which the adults in children’s lives can help or harm their athletic experience.
As children are first playing the sport, it is important to remain positive, supportive, upbeat and have no expectations on performance. Parents should be celebrating effort, teamwork, sportsmanship, meeting new friends and traveling to different parks, towns and cities. When children have developed some skills, show natural ability, and start playing in more competitive leagues, it is essential that parents remain focused on sportsmanship, teamwork, attitude, and helping their child deal with losing, making an error or missing a shot.
The way parents ¨debrief¨ after a game is another critical factor in an athlete’s development. Starting off the conversation by talking about a funny incident, a great play made, or a way in which someone showed sportsmanship puts the emphasis on the overall experience, and not performance. An opening question to ask about performance could be, ¨How do you think you played today?” Most of the time, your child will be harder on him/herself. Make sure you take the time to listen before giving your feedback and suggestions.
Always end the conversation with affection and pride for them participating in a sport. Lastly, as athletes start to play at the middle/high school level, parents need to teach self-advocacy skills (e.g., your child should talk to the coach about playing time), commitment, ability to recognize skills of others and different roles of playing on a team sport.
I enjoy reading some of the signs posted around athletic fields. One of my favorites is:
Last night at dinner, my nephew shared with us the conversation he had earlier at his lunch table at school. He was talking with the other students, stating that until last year, he never knew how ¨bad” he was at baseball. My sister and I started laughing hysterically, remembering how painful it had been for us to watch him play due to his clumsiness and lack of skill. Currently, Ian is playing varsity lacrosse, becoming a patched lacrosse official and will have his code of honor next month to become an Eagle Scout. No college scholarship for baseball, but his memories are positive.
Have a great vacation week!