This week, I’m going to re-visit something that I shared 15 months ago.
This has been, without a doubt, my most circulated editorial -it reached media outlets in Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, and Texas, to name just a few- and it is a timeless one. I still have people who come up to me and say that it changed their parenting, when it came to sports.
Sometimes, we just need a reminder. So, whether this is a refresher or you missed it the first go-round, here it is:
- Note – The following editorial is a re-publish from the May 18, 2016 edition of The Times
As with any editorial, there will be some people who agree whole-heartedly and some who will fiercely dispute. But hey, editorials are opinions and that’s the point, right?
Today, I’m tackling a touchy subject. One that is sure to spark opinions, whether you agree with me or not.
To be blunt, I think parents who coddle their kids in sports are, ultimately, killing sports.
Hear me out before you pull out your phone or laptop to type out some hate mail.
I don’t believe kids should be cursed like dogs for screwing up on the field, court, or whatever surface they’re competing on, but I do believe that one should be held accountable for their actions and a coach raising their voice to get his or her point across is completely acceptable.
If I had a nickel for every time a coach yelled at me in my sports career, well, I could go buy something really nice. And I mean REALLY nice.
I was yelled at. I didn’t go home and whine to mommy and daddy when it happened and, if I would have, they would’ve told me to suck it up.
I had coaches that yelled. I had a few that swore. It happened for several years of my life, and I still managed to get looks from colleges in all three major sports. It didn’t kill me because there was never a big deal made from it.
I’ve seen kids whose parents confront coaches who yell at them when they screw up on the field.
I’ve got news for you: If my son winds up playing quarterback and your kid is the left tackle who is consistently whiffing on blocks and allowing my son to get blindsided ... well, if the coach doesn’t get your kid’s attention, I will.
Kids who participate in sports have jobs. The various athletic events are usually team-based competitions, but each player has a specific job to conduct. Those individual jobs are heavily instructed during the long practice hours that the players log, and they know how to execute them efficiently.
Now, there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Tee-ball kids shouldn’t be perceived by coaches as the next Ken Griffey, Jr. Be realistic when coaching kids. When they’re new to a sport, they are going to mess up. High schoolers mess up. College athletes mess up. Heck, professional athletes mess up from time to time.
I’ll be a lot more prone to yell at a high school or college-aged kid who messes up a routine play than I will a six-year old who has trouble remembering where to stand on the field to play his position, simply because of repetition and experience.
But coddling your young kids leads to a false sense of entitlement, and that’s where things get nasty later on.
When parents become involved by taking up their kids’ battles with high school coaches over playing time, the position he or she plays, etc., that is also a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
When I played baseball under former IAHS coach Brian Long, I remember him firmly making this point:
He said, “If you have a problem with playing time or anything else, YOU come talk to me. Do not send your parent(s) because I will not listen to them. I don’t go to their job and tell them how to write prescriptions or put furniture together, so I don’t expect them to come tell me how to do mine.”
That’s a very good point.
Don’t “baby” your child. I understand that they are your kids and you love them, but be realistic about your expectations.
Wearing rose-colored glasses when viewing your child’s athletic ability can be detrimental to their long-term success.
When a kid isn’t as talented as others on a team, and everyone knows it except the parent, it can send their athletic career in a swift downward spiral.
Instead of praising Little Johnny and telling him the coach is stupid because “he’s the best one on the team,” why don’t you be objective and tell Little Johnny the truth?
If he’s praised in a situation like that, it’s more likely that his work ethic will deteriorate because it’s “the coach’s fault and not his own” and he will become complacent and not improve.
Instead, if you tell him that he needs to work on some things to get better and earn playing time ... he might just work hard, get better and earn some playing time.
Odds are your kid isn’t the best one on the team. Even if they are, they still aren’t THE absolute best. There’s always work to be done for improvement, no matter the skill level, and it’s a killer when a parent constantly reminds their child that they’re “good enough.”
I could have football games where I had 100 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns, basketball games where I had 25 points and 10 rebounds, or baseball games where I went 3-4 with a double and a home run. My parents always praised my accomplishments, but constantly reminded me that there was room for improvement.
There are three points to this column that I’m trying to get across.
1.) Be realistic about your child’s ability and adjust your expectations.
2.) Be firm with your child about their actions.
3.) Don’t blame the coach.
If you believe your child is the best, even when they aren’t, if you pamper your child when they don’t get their way, and/or you constantly place blame on coaches, you are only setting them up for failure.
And when they do wind up failing in the long run, take a look in the mirror and blame that person.