Sports Savvy: Tips for First Place Parenting in the Sports World

As someone who doesn’t yet have children of my own, I often look back at how I was raised and think about what I’d apply as a parent. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t anything bad or missing from my experience as a young athlete, (other than overwhelming athletic ability), but it is that lack of talent and a complete excess of desire, that makes me worry I’ll become an overzealous sports parent. To make matters worse, I spent my college years coaching a crop of the most talented, beautiful, young pre-competitive gymnasts … and already you can hear the bias in my voice … concerning, I know. To explore the fine line between being a supportive parent and a sideline coach, I decided to go back to my roots and speak with the first competitive coach I ever had. Jamie Boyd Hamilton knows a thing or two about balancing parenting and coaching. In 1999, Jamie and her husband, Don rescued a team of young gymnasts, including me, from a gym that was about to go belly-up. Believing in a “child-centered and family-focused” approach to sports, they created Red Cedar Gymnastics. Not only has Jamie coached gymnastics for 20-plus years, but she’s coached her own children competitively in the sport as well. She has also employed several of her own past athletes, including myself. Even though I wasn’t coaching my own children, it was the most rewarding experience I’ve had in the world of sports. Having said that, I’ve seen the mom that is more enthused about the sport than her kid or the dad who thinks he knows more than the coach. If this sounds at all like you or your spouse, here are a few tips to get you refocused on your athlete: 1. Watch for a discrepancy between his or her ability and desire. Athletes can get “burned out” when either their ability or their desire overshadows the other. They may not admit to feeling this way because they don’t want to disappoint you. 2. Never criticize the coach in front of the athlete. Rather, encourage the athlete to be a self-advocate. If you’re a parent and the coach, then make sure you’re always coaching, not criticizing. 3. Jamie reminds us that “as a parent first, you should be their soft place to land.” Don’t initiate ‘game recaps’ at home. 4. If more than one child in the family is in the sport, allow them to be in different classes or on different teams. Avoid comparison. 5. Jamie says it’s important to “Prepare your athlete to be where THEY want to be.” Don’t go into it with your own plans for them (college scholarship, etc.). Let them forge their own path.

Tags: coaching, Parenting, Sports Savvy

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