Fathers, Egos, and Youth Sports
by Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
“What kind of throw was that?” said the father to his son.
The boy picked up another baseball and threw it, this time with better results. “There, that’s better,” the father conceded.
Spring youth baseball had started, and all over the country, fathers with great enthusiasm and intensity were leading seven and eight-year-olds into the world of competition. And all around the field were nervous parents, hoping their child would stand up to the scrutiny of other parents and peers.
I was one of those parents, watching the little boy with my name on the back of his jersey. Watching as he “represented” our family. And watching as he began to enter the world of “big boys,” where ability and toughness were the two qualities that mattered.
It is incredible to experience the hope and fear that occurs when your child steps up to the plate. While we say we’re satisfied with whatever happens when our child performs, we don’t always tell the truth. We like to see our kids excel. And when they don’t, it reflects on us. But we must be careful in our reactions to our child’s performance, because they intuitively know how we feel about them. And in a country in which 70% of all kids quit their sport by age 13, and never play it again (National Alliance for Youth Sports), we must take great precaution when leading them into the world of organized sports. Here are some guidelines for parents:
• If you question whether your child is old enough to play organized sports, always err on the side of caution. They’ll have plenty of time to catch up!
• Get to know your coaches very well—it just takes one bad experience to sour your child’s attitude towards being in organized sports.
• Sign your child up for sports with friends or other family members to ease them into the process. Introverted or shy kids may especially benefit from a companion on the team.
• Do your best to avoid judging your child’s performance. Kids hear that they did everything “great” far too often. Instead, tell them what you noticed. “You really ran hard out there,” invites an exploration of effort, not judgment.
• Coach your child in how to receive coaching—tell them about different styles of coaches, and how to listen for the information they’re giving.
My son whacked the first pitch for a hit, and scored his team’s first run. And as I caught his eye after crossing the plate, a big smile covered his face.
Thankfully, he wasn’t in need of any of that “toughness” yet.
After all, he only gets to be a little boy once.
I think we’re going to stretch it out as long as we can.
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, coaches fathers by phone to balance their life and improve family
relationships — immediately! He is an Instructor for the Academy for Coaching Parents
(www.acpi.biz) and author of “Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers” Ecourse