The Perfect Parent
Be Seen and Heard Very Little
A friend of ours once had a conversation with a young player:
Coach: ” so what is your favorite position? “
Player: ” center midfield”
Coach: ” Interesting. Is that because you see yourself as a good playmaker? “
Player: ” No its because my dad is one side and my coach is on the other and sometimes if in am in the field I can’t hear either of them. “
If it weren’t so sad it would be funny. It’s also a story repeated over and over again at fields all over the world. In the age of helicopter parenting the notion of allowing kids to play for fun or of allowing them to learn by making mistakes is all too rare.
Aside from destroying the joy of sport for many young people, such parental or coach intervention is almost certainly misguided.
Try to remember a moment or a time when you played out of your socks, when everything seemed to go right. Now stop reading for a moment and try to think of how it felt at the time, how you would describe it. Obviously, there are lots of words you can use but I think a common description would be that I was in the zone, that it was all so effortless, thoughtless and unconscious.
Even though our own experiences with excellent performance have been all too fleeting and uncommon we know that’s exactly how it felt: there was no conscious focus on the how, the focus was entirely on the outcome and we just knew that it was going to work. By contrast most of us would, I believe, agree that when we start to think too much about what we are doing or the mechanics of what we are doing then our actions tend to become awkward and clumsy. Spontaneity and creativity tend to disappear.
Now, we do not mean to preach here – as parents we are all human and we have all been there, most of us reading this probably as coaches too. But, in the light of what we have just discussed above consider the following: By constantly coaching and correcting our kids in the game we are unconsciously, but almost certainly, guaranteeing poor and deteriorating performance. We are taking them away from that unconscious, focused mental state where they need to be to excel.
Tactically it may also be a mistake and only serve to confuse the players. It is impossible to know what precise instructions the coach has given the players so how can a parent tell them what to do when they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing?
How many times have you seen a team where the coach has for whatever reason decided to have their team drop when they lose the ball, but where the parents on the sideline are screaming “pressure.”? Little Sally out there has no idea whether she’s coming or going.
If you want to see how much the kids hate it, allow them all to describe it anonymously via their coach and read the responses. I think this is a useful exercise for any youth team. You’ll see answers like, “it’s so embarrassing,” “I cringe every time he opens his mouth,” ” I wish they could hear themselves,” or ” they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
So maybe it’s time for all us parents to just shut up and let them play. Praise them and anyone else on the field for good play and leave it at that. And they’ll like us better for it!