How to be a good sports parent

Brian was interviewed for this KGW piece on sports parenting.

by Cathy Marshall, KGW Staff

Posted on October 25, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 5:38 PM

PORTLAND — University of Portland basketball player Bryce Pressley said he has seen some out of control sports parents over the years.

“One time a parent ran onto the court and almost tried to hit his kid, but the ref caught him,” Pressley said. “It was over the top.”

Pilots soccer player Erin Dees said she’s been the target of frustrated parents.

“I’ve had parents yelling things at me that college students wouldn’t even say,” she said.

But both Dees and Pressley said their parents found the perfect words when the competition got tough.

“They would tell me to forget about it and move on to the next game,” Pressley remembered.

“Once I slipped on a goal kick. I looked like a Bozo but my dad told me not to worry about it because no one saw it,” Dees said. “A sense of humor is good.”

At Sports Psychology Institute Northwest, Brian Baxter offers seminars about how to parent successful athletes.

“The biggest mistake parents make is coaching from the sidelines,” he said. “Often times they’re telling their kids to do something contrary to what the coach is saying, so the child doesn’t know who to please.”

Baxter recommends parents focus on the three things within an athlete’s control: attitude, effort, and preparing for the game.

He said those are starting points for effective conversations, and a positive pre-game message is also important.

“Work hard and have fun. That’s all I say to my kids,” Baxter said.

Once the game is over, he said young athletes need space.

“On the car ride home it’s best to let everyone decompress. Maybe say one or two things like, ‘I love watching you play’ or ‘You guys did great.’”

Dees and Pressley remember the long, quiet car rides home but also the long lasting message delivered by Mom and Dad.

“Don’t give up and follow your dreams,” Pressley recalled.

Dees said the most important lesson was “knowing that in the end it didn’t matter how you played, because they still would love you.”

SPINw Founder Mark Henry launches new website for Golfers


Warrior Golfer is designed to help you Perform Better, Enjoy the Game More, and Learn. Warrior Golfer grew out of a conversation between teaching pros and golfers about how to help golfers improve.

This is a really cool site to join a community of golfers where you can track your stats, take a free mental game profile, communicate with other golfers, and more.  Check it out and join today!   You can also click the link above to purchase Mark’s new e-book “Warrior Golf

Putting with your Eyes on the Hole

For any golfers out there, read this article on putting at

I’ve been using this method for years and I’m thrilled to see the data supporting it. I read that some of the comments disagree with the analogy of shooting a basketball or throwing a baseball, but I don’t. My mindset is that I know where the ball is and my hands are attached to the putter. The ball doesn’t move. With practice, I can make solid putting strokes and not worry about mishits. In the past using the look at the ball method, my thinking side of my brain has interfered with the executing side. However, I make one accomodation. Within 15 feet I look at the ball, outside of 15 I look at the hole. My reasoning is that what matters most inside of 15 feet is the path to the hole, outside of 15 feet its the distance to the hole. In a short period of time, I’ve learned that by looking at the hole and softening my gaze, my mind and my hands know how much pace to put on the ball.

Tips from a Major Champion

Sport Psychology with PGA Player of the Year

It’s not common to get an insight into the mindset of championship athletes, so when Padraig Harrington, winner of 3 Major Championships in the last 2 years, spoke with the San Diego Union Tribune, SPINw listened.

Padraig described several positive mental habits which he routinely practices during a round. He’s “always playing a mental game. I’m always trying to be reasonably positive. In some ways, I’m preparing myself for a battle tomorrow. When I say I’m struggling a bit, I’m trying to get into my head that I’m going to have to knuckle down and work hard to save every shot.”

He describes two definite positive thought patterns. First, he’s focusing on positive events and plays. Obsession with negative events or poor performances can lead to recurring negative self-talk and lowered confidence. Padraig also demonstrates a focus on this shot, in this moment. By maintaining his focus in the present moment, he’s not thinking about the missed putt on 13 or the bad chip on 14; he’s truly grounded and aware of himself and the task at hand. Both of these traits, thinking positively and staying present, are excellent habits for the mentally strong athlete.

And one more thing – how does Padraig feel about the long-awaited return of Tiger back to the tour? “I am looking forward to Tiger coming back and taking some of the spotlight off me. It’s much easier to win a tournament under the radar.”

Anxiety and Golf

Golfers Anxiety

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

What is it about anxiety in golf? Is it the fact that you’re alone against the course? Or that others may be watching? Why can one small swing fix work one day, only to leave us hanging the next?
While it may have many sources, we can all agree that anxiety in golf can be a crippling opponent. However, when understood properly, it can be negated, or even turned to our advantage. Part of the problem could be a general misconception about the nature of anxiety in general. Many may believe that any amount of anxiety or nervousness is abnormal or wrong. However, the truth is quite the contrary – everyone experiences certain amounts of normal, healthy anxiety before any performance task; this should not be our concern. Rather, excessive amounts of anxiety which cause serious distress should be seen as an area for improvement. Simply experiencing anxiety is a normal response.
For proof of this we need look no further than basketball great Bill Russell, who famously threw up before important games. In fact, his teammates came to use that as a barometer that he was prepared for a big performance.
So, it is time for a newer understanding of anxiety for golfers, and all athletes. Placing the expectation on ourselves that we should never be nervous or anxious can lead to a vicious cycle of fearing anxiety itself, then getting more anxious, then becoming self-critical, which in turn leads to elevated anxiety.
Instead, our understanding of anxiety should be that nervousness and anxiety is a natural response, experienced by everyone, to stressful performance situations. If we find ourselves becoming excessively nervous (as possibly indicated by some responses such as clammy hands, negative self-talk, or upset stomach), it might be time for some calming exercises such as a breathing-centering routine, stepping back from the ball and starting our pre-shot routine over, or some positive visualizations. The final key to understanding anxiety is to remember that different people experience anxiety differently. The key is learning our own anxiety responses and how we perform under duress, and modifying our routing accordingly.