Parents are their children’s first and permanent teachers, but how can you as a coach guide this powerful potential? - In this blog post we discuss some essential issues that you can tell parents to support their children’s physical and athletic development. First, in order to succeed in educating the parents, it is inevitable to keep in mind two presumptions:
- parents should not be asked or expected to abandon their role as a parent;
- parents should not develop the feeling that they do not have sufficient skills to support the development of their children.
Instead of that, you could tell them five principles that help children to develop their potential*:
1. How to define winning?
Although winning seems the most central issue in sport, in youth sports development is much more crucial. Remind parents that young athletes are not „little pros“ while encouraging them to view the world through the eyes of a child. Moreover, in youth sports, losing is for champions**! Instead of concentrating on being the best performer, parents can support the ideas that winning in youth sport means:
- Making maximum effort
- Continuing to learn and improve
- Refusing to let fear and mistakes stop you
2. How to fill the emotional tank?
People have something like „emotional tanks“, which need to be filled to give maximum effort. Here, parents serve as a wonderful resource of home court advantage. This advantage happens because of the emotional support distributed by supportive audience. Parents can make up a portable home court and fill young athletes’ emotional tanks. Therefore, tell parents that their most important job is to fill their children’s emotional tanks.
3. How to criticize and give advices?
When a parent wants to correct or criticize, the „Magic Ratio“ of 5:1 (praise to criticism) is essential. Thus, parents should find five things to praise before they can criticize! In addition, advices could be phrased as wishes: “I wish you stay concentrated on your next turn.“
4. How to communicate the principles of fair play?
Teach parents to offer praise and encouraging words to all athletes, including child’s opponents. Parents serve as powerful role models who communicate the principles of fair play. Create norms of respecting:
- Fairness and honesty
- Importance of effort over outcome
5. How to support and facilitate?
Support and facilitation also take the form of transporting their children to training and competitions, purchasing equipment, and offering moral support from the sidelines***. In addition, children not only appreciate material and emotional support but also unconditional support. This appears whenever children know that they will be accepted even if they fall short. Last but not least: children consider merely the act of watching and spectating as motivational. And, in the opposite way, if parents don’t come to watch the events of their children, it feels like they are not supporting their children.
* Positive Coaching Alliance, www.positivecoach.org
** Dell’Antonia, K. (2012). In youth sports, losing is for champions. The New York Times, March 6, 6:16 PM. http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/06/in-youth-sports-losing-is-for-champions/
*** Keegan,R., Spray, C., Harwood, C., & Lavallee, D. (2010). The Motivational Atmosphere in Youth Sport: Coach, Parent, and Peer Influences on Motivation in Specializing Sport Participants, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22, 87-105.