In Out of Control Emotions/Jealousy and Anger, Parents' Role in Youth Sports, Problems in Youth Sports, Teamwork

As her daughter’s exciting swim race ended, the mother could no longer control herself. She exploded from her seat and began to jump up and down in the stands, pumping her fist in the air and yelling for all to hear, “Yeah!!! You beat her! You finally beat her! Way to go baby!” Who did her daughter just beat that would trigger such an explosive display of enthusiasm? No one special, except her daughter’s friend and teammate…..Minutes before the U-12 soccer match Billy’s father approached the coach and politely asked if he could have a word with him. He explained to the coach that Billy was upset with his lack of playing time and felt that he was good enough to be starting. The father then added that he had to agree with his son and listed several players that his son was better than who were playing in front of Billy…..After the ball game Mike went home and began to bitterly complain to his parents about the coach benching him after he had made that second error in a row at shortstop during the third inning. “Ya’know, he’s so unfair! He didn’t give me enough of a chance! (It was Mike’s 4th error of the game and it had already cost the team 3 runs)…And furthermore he put in Rafe instead of me. Rafe sucks! He can’t even play the position. Just because he made a few good plays doesn’t mean anything!” His parents, who were both at the game, joined in to support their son and trash the coach and put down his teammates. Mike’s father added that Mike was the best infielder that the team had and that the coach didn’t know what he was doing.

Here we have three wonderful examples of parents who are “team-busters.” They are engaging in behaviors that will ultimately undermine the formation of a close-knit team. Their actions pit their child against his/her teammates in a competitively unhealthy and immature way. It’s one thing to support your son or daughter, to come to their aid when a coach has been inappropriate and saying or doing things that are hurtful or damaging. However, there’s a big difference between support and sabotage.

It’s not simply enough that an athlete be a good sport and a team player. Because of the powerful influence they have, parents have to also. As a parent you need to be able to maintain a sense of perspective when dealing with the coach and team and continue to emphasize to your child the importance of teamwork. This means that everyone has a role to play on the team and for success to occur everyone must play their assigned role to the best of their ability. Your child may not like his/her role on the team. He/she may think it is unfair. However, you need to help them understand the way that teams work.

(The “playing time issue is a tricky one. I am not talking about younger kids having to sit on the bench for most of the game here. I have very strong feelings that up until 13 or 14 + children should be given ample opportunity to play. It’s ridiculous, for example, in Little League to have children not getting to play an entire game because they are supposedly not good enough.) Bad-mouthing the coach or putting your child’s teammates down in front of him/her does not help them understand and value the importance of teamwork.

Parents need to model teamwork by being good team players themselves. What this means for you as a parent is that you must get into cheering as hard for your son or daughter’s teammates as you do for your child. While this is not always very easy to do, it’s the mature and healthy thing to do. Remember you’re teaching important life skills here. This is not just about some insignificant basketball or softball game. Your children are going to immediately pick up on your behavior. If you want to teach them the value of teamwork then you had better model it for them!

PARENTS MENTAL TOUGHNESS TRAINING PACKAGE ALL SPORTS [Buy program] PARENTS AND COACHES GUIDE TO WINNING AT THE YOUTH SPORTS GAME: What every parent and coach needs to know to help your child/athlete feel and perform like a winner! [Buy audio CD] THE SPORTS MIND PROGRAM [Buy program]


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