David Benzel CEO of Growing Champions for Life weighs in on - When Youth Sports Parents Lose Their Cool

In light of the horrific event where a California man allegedly whipped his step-son for dropping a baseball (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/06/anthony-sanchez-california-official-caught-on-video-beating-stepson) we evaluate parents and youth sports. The severity of the judging and rebuking from parents varies widely but the source of the problem is universal: parents often become more analyst than observer, more critic than supporter, and more judge than encourager. In short, parents forget whose game it is and their emotional anticipation of a great performance sets them up for more disappointment than many can handle. As a result children experience a reaction that generally falls into one of four sport parent categories - The Agent, The Manager, The Sponsor and The Hero; only one of which is truly desirable.

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When parents want something that requires their child to become something more than what they are, they will never be happy.

Orlando, FL (PRWEB) June 19, 2012

It’s been said that our EQ (emotional quotient) is a far better indicator of our chances for success than our IQ (intelligence quotient). Nowhere is that more evident than when observing adult behavior in the world of youth sports. The most recent example was caught on video tape by a neighbor as a young boy was allegedly whipped by his step-father for dropping the ball while playing catch.

While the majority of sport parents will never be guilty of such extreme reactions to a dropped ball, the more subtle versions of this behavior are a regular occurrence in more homes than we’ll ever know. The severity of the judging and rebuking from parents varies widely but the source of the problem is universal: parents often become more analyst than observer, more critic than supporter, and more judge than encourager. Children from age 8 to 18 are most often the victims of this scrutiny and their athletic enjoyment is far from what it could be. In short, parents forget whose game it is and their emotional anticipation of a great performance sets them up for more disappointment than many can handle. As a result children experience a reaction that generally falls into one of four sport parent categories, only one of which is truly desirable.

The Agent
The Agent-Parent acts as though a child is a commodity to be developed and promoted. This parent tends to over-emphasize the destination (college scholarship or pro contract) more than the journey. Therefore most performances get evaluated and compared to some standard that must be met to stay on track to reach a goal. Life lessons and the value of the experience are over-looked. This parent personally identifies with a performance and will harp and criticize a child for not meeting expectations.            

The Manager
The Manager-Parent also applies performance pressure in the hopes of making a child better. The main difference is that the Manager focuses on making progress, rather than just the outcome. This parent will manipulate every circumstance (coaches, schedules, equipment) to gain an advantage. Through their constant evaluating and analysis Managers communicate their joy about improvement and their disappointment about sub-par performances. Their children start to assume that love is given in direct proportion to performance achieved.

The Sponsor
The Sponsor-Parent tends not to be involved in a child’s sport experience, but sees it as something to pay for. Hearing about the results of a game afterwards is the norm due to work schedule or a lack of interest in participating in a child’s athletic life. While the Sponsor is less guilty of applying performance pressure before competition, they are still critical after a game and will overlook opportunities to teach the life-lessons that expose themselves through sports.

In each of the three scenarios above, children start to assume that love is given in direct proportion to performance achieved. Only this final sport parent style sends a message of unconditional love and acceptance.

The Hero
The Hero-Parent purposefully avoids adding performance pressure to a child’s athletic world. While this parent is deeply interested in how his child performs, he’s more interested in how he lives and how he feels about himself – win or lose. For that reason more conversations are directed at the bigger life-lessons than at sport techniques and strategies. Sport specific conversations consist more of questions and discussion than lecture and directing. After a game in which a child feels embarrassed by an error, the Hero-Parent is more likely to discuss “how to handle embarrassment” than “how to never make an error.”

The ultimate strategy for becoming a Hero Parent is found in the answer to a simple question: “What do you want?” When parents want something that requires their child to become something more than what they are, they will never be happy. However, when a parent’s “want list” consists of things within their own control that only require a change within them, they can go home happy after every game.

Every Hero Parent has found the wisdom and the satisfaction of shifting their true desires over to the right-hand box in the illustration above. The results are better family relationships and happier kids who enjoy sports more and stay involved longer.

David Benzel is the Founder of Growing Champions for Life, an organization dedicated to building cohesive families, healthy teams, and principle-centered athletes. Learn more at http://www.growingchampionsforlife.com


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