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  • Phill O'Brien

The Parent, Coach, Player Relationship

The three way relationship between a coach, a parent and their child has the potential to be wonderful, creative and recreational for all parties. Two adults who both want the very best for the young person playing their sport.

Most parents' experience of introducing children to sports parents is limited. Most do it one or two times and learn on the job. There are no ‘how to be a great sports parent’ classes although Gordon McClennel ‘Parents in Sport’ and Richard Shorther ‘Non Perfect Dad are doing interesting work.

The temptation for parents (and less experienced coaches) is to confuse the adult competence they see on TV (or perhaps are able to demonstrate themselves) with an outcome that is appropriate or desirable for a child.

Experienced coaches on the other hand have supported dozens and dozens of children to negotiate the transition from child playing with their mates to adult loving being physical and staying in the game they love. They understand the incremental journeys children need to make towards adult participation and competence.

Effective partnership between parent, coach and child is the way forward but the goals need to be shared and the route map agreed on. How will we get there?

‘Creating Landmark Memories for life’

Our philosophy at Academy North sees us focus on developing players over the long term. Success should be measured by the high quality of relationships the children develop with the sport, their peers, opponents and officials. We have done a great job if the children grow up to love playing the game?

It is not our role as an academy to make small children look like mini adults. It is our role to build the foundations (physical, emotional and psychological) and prerequisites for the child to become a life long lover of playing the game.

We want children to feel the wonderful internal, intrinsic rewards of;

  • connection,

  • belonging,

  • competence,

  • mateship,

  • exercise,

  • overcoming challenges.

We want these to be the motivators that keep children coming back. We know that these intrinsic rewards accelerate development and extend longevity in a sport. External or extrinsic rewards are likely to have the opposite effect (third party approval, prizes for runs / wickets) .

We believe short term outcome goals are a recipe for a shorter career as a junior cricketer and a stressed parent player relationship. Why so? Well;

  • Improving when it comes to physical skill development is rarely simple. We rarely get better simply by being told and shown. There are often a wide variety of factors at play.

  • A child might grow an unperceivable 3 or 4 mm in a short time period (growth spirt). This can make executing previously mastered skills really tough.

  • Kids can’t control wins or losses, runs and wickets. Plenty believe (Carol Dweck) that short term outcome focused goals are harmful. Oh and the research tells us that children care about results way way less than do adults (see Amanda Visek). Kids care for 5 minutes or so then enjoy being with their mates.

  • Children have no control over selection matters.

Even if it were a good idea to set your kids outcome goals surely you would want them to be within their control! Rember sport is meant to be fun for your kids. Let them play, see how Hockey Canada highlights this issue in a very amusing 30 second video clip.

So the best qualities of sports parents can be summarized as

  • Parents whos pre and post course discussions with their kids are focused on fun, relationships, collegiality, fair play and endeavour. Consider Mike Young’s 12 word sports parenting vocabulary. 2 words when you drop off the kids ‘have fun’ 7 words when you collect them ‘I just love to watch you play’ and 3 words when they tell you they are bored at home ‘go and play’ if you want to be really challenged as a sports parent have a listen to Mike in this 90 minute podcast and see the brilliant work of John O’Sullivan.

  • Parents who watch and support everyone on the field with an equal degree of enthusiasm

  • Parents who play with their children with fun as the focus - if you want help with games you can play that will contribute to long term goals ask us.

  • Parents who avoid instructing the children (leave that to the coach although a decent coach questions way more than they instruct).

Lets close with the magical words advocated by both John O’Sullivan and Mike Young, words to use after every game. Not how many, how much, who won but………..

‘I just love to watch you play’

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