While searching for coaching tips to help my hopeless, winless band of 6-year-old dirt-diggers, I discovered this must-read gem for all parents. I was frustrated and desperate thinking that my kids needed more motivation and guidance from me. This article made me see that’s not want they want, nor what they need.
I’ll give you the significant highlights in a bit, but read the whole post. That is, it after you relate to my typical Saturday dad dismay.
After a predictably miserable debut as coach of my youngest son’s team in the morning, I rushed to see my 8-year-old’s match followed by my daughter’s after that. Aye yai yai, soccer Saturdays are taxing on a parent of three. I thought I could relax and just take in the game as a proud dad and let some other poor schmuck do the coaching. There is no relaxing on Saturday. As I watched my boy nervously dance around the field, unsure of how to engage, my parental insecurities were starting to burn inside.
My wife said casually, “I remember playing soccer. And hating it.” As she said that, all my early memories of the agony came back too. For soccer and baseball and basketball, I did the same thing that I see my son and daughter do; I’d run around trying to look as if I was playing, but just hoping to avoid all ball contact until the good kids could win the game for us.
Those thoughts quickly went to the dark side where sideline parents discover madness. I’ve failed as a father. If they don’t want to get the ball today, then they’ll not want to go after anything in life. They are going to grow up to be heroin addicts unless I do something about it today after he finishes his orange slices. Actually, maybe before he gets to enjoy any undeserved friggin orange slices!
I pursued him after the game anxious to positively discuss his play if I could hold back my visible disappointment. He could see it in my eyes and clung to Mom. I got in some encouraging notes while fighting to get between him and Mommy.
For the next few weeks I tried to make all of my kids more aggressive at wanting the ball. I emailed the coach and stood behind him yelling, I mean, cheering. Did I become that Dad?
I’ve seen some improvements. My son even scored a goal. But I wasn’t seeing soccer scholarships to Yale at this point.
I was going to write a post about my nightmares as a Micros coach, when I found the enlightening aforementioned post by Steve Henson of Yahoo Sports. The opening line grabbed me :
“Hundreds of college athletes were asked to think back: “What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?”
Their overwhelming response: “The ride home from games with my parents.”
He goes on to explain that the same college athletes’ best memories were from grandparents or the parents who simply said they loved to watch them play.
I just read this yesterday and I wish I had read it before I ever attended a game. My wife and I have differed on this issue for years. She wanted me to stand down and let the coach do all the coaching so I don’t confuse the child. I said that, having been a coach, I always wanted the parents to help me out and instruct their kid. But I forgot to consider what the kid wants. Besides post-game snacks.
This article brings to light the philosophies of longtime coaches Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching LLC. They instruct,
“Everything we teach came from me asking players questions,” Brown says. “When you have a trusting relationship with kids, you get honest answers… Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences aren’t fatal, they aren’t permanent. We’re talking about a game. So they usually don’t want or need a parent to rescue them when something goes wrong. Once you as a parent are assured the team is a safe environment, release your child to the coach and to the game. That way all successes are theirs, all failures are theirs.”
Makes perfect sense. It’s just a game. Furthermore, the soccer stars from my little league teams are no more successful today than the kid that picked his nose all game. It’s just hopefully some fun and a way to get them off the couch. Relax, Dad.
Now, will I be able to practice what I have been coached? We shall see tomorrow. I will certainly keep you posted. Now, go get your juice box!