5 Things Amazing Sports Parents Do

   Brian Baxter with older son, Hawk

Raising a young athlete can be at the same time: rewarding and frustrating, exhilarating and boring, energizing and exhausting!  A few years ago, I wrote about Being a Student of Parenting – really taking this crazy world of youth sports and making it about learning how to be a better parent.

Since 1999, SPINw has worked with thousands of youth and high school athletes to help them build or re-build confidence, improve focus, set goals, and deal with the pressure of elite level sports. This process always involves the parents!  As the young athlete learns new techniques, the parents are their best support system, and also need tools to help.

So, read on to find out 5 Things Amazing Sports Parents Do:

1 – They keep the BIG PICTURE in mind

Sports parents most important insight is perspective.  For a young athlete, every game is the biggest game of their lives – which can bring with it extra stress, pressure and anxiety.  “What is I don’t play well?”  “What if all that hard work and training doesn’t pay off in this competition?”  “What if I let someone down?” The last thing a parent wants to do is add on to that stress level in any way.

If you were an athlete growing up, hopefully you will have some perspective on things. You will be able to separate the “must win” game from a learning experience.  You know that, as important as this game seems now, in the words of John Popper from Blues Traveler: “It won’t mean a thing in 100 years.” Even if you weren’t an athlete growing up, you most likely experienced similar situations in other areas of life, such as music, performing, or simply in your career life.

An amazing sports parent has the proper perspective on the BIG PICTURE, which is – what is my child gaining from this experience? What, from each and every day of training or competition, will my child learn that will help them later in life?  Amazing sports parents keep this in mind at all times when involved in their child’s sporting life.

2 – They know their role
 Sports parents are just that – parents.  They are not the coach – please do NOT coach your kids from the sidelines.  This goes against the BIG PICTURE.  There may be times when coaching from the sidelines will help in the short term.  But it’s robbing them of crucial things! Like learning from their mistakes (see #3), learning how to be coachable and communicate with their teammates, sharpening their decision-making skills, and just simply figuring things out on their own.
 They are not the referee. There is no making a scene at a perceived bad call or blaming a loss on the officials. Young athletes must be able to deal with adversity, and know how to play with sportsmanship. This growth is stunted by bad examples set by parents and coaches who focus too much on the referees.
 Most importantly, they do not live vicariously through their kids.  Ultimately, it’s the kids’ game, not the parents’.
3 – They allow space for their athlete to learn through mistakes and failure
 Amazing sports parents can avoid the classic traps of being a “helicopter parent” or a “lawnmower parent.” That is, they do not come to the rescue every time there is a problem. If a young athlete gets cut from the tryout, or makes a key mistake in a key moment, they are going to feel terrible.  It is in our DNA as parents to comfort and make things okay for our kids.  But amazing sports parents do not go overboard in this area.  They are supportive and available, but they do not actively try to fix things.
 In any athletic competition, an athlete goes through an emotional rollercoaster.  And so does the parent watching from the stands. Amazing sports parents allow space for their athletes to emotionally process their successes and failures.  They do not pile on with “woulda, coulda, shouldas”, nor do they deny their kids the opportunity for their own emotional processing.  Rather, they allow the appropriate time and space for their athlete to make mistakes, and learn from failures.
 Brian with younger son, Zavier
4 – They help foster internal motivation in their athletes
 Amazing sports parents know that external motivations such as winning, incentives (financial or otherwise), and coaches, parents and other people, do not last over the long term. They know that internal motivation, such as self-improvement and mastery, being a part of something bigger than themselves, is the more sustainable motivation for life.
 One way to do this is to approach communication with your athlete from a “growth mindset” perspective. That is, to praise controllable elements in performance such as attitude and effort.  And to not praise athletes based on their talent or athleticism.  Amazing sports parents know that if an athlete attributes his or her success to work rate and positivity, they are likely to continue living these qualities.
5 – They create a peaceful environment on the car ride home
This is the most tangible piece of advice for sports parents, based on feedback I generally receive from them.  Many of you have probably read this study about the 6 words to say to your athlete after a competition.  This strategy sums up the other 4 items in this list, and puts it into a practice action item, which goes like this:
 Amazing sports parents, on the car ride home, simply let their athlete know; “I loved watching you play.” or “I really enjoyed that game, it was fun.” no matter what the result or how good or bad the performance.  Then they wait for their child to initiate any further conversation.
This is BIG PICTURE thinking! You are not overanalyzing or dissecting the day. Not making it any bigger or smaller than it was. In the big picture, hopefully, it was fun watching your child compete, succeed, fail, learn, communicate, listen, and grow!  If not, you definitely need to ask yourself why? What is getting in the way?
If your child doesn’t say anything on the ride home, they are emotionally processing what has happened.  No matter how happy or sad they are, these emotions will eventually pass, and translate into learning and growth. Amazing sports parents do not interfere with this!  Also, it’s important to not that the parent has just gone through an emotional experience. So, amazing sports parents allow themselves the same emotional processing time.
 Of those 5 things, how many of them do you do consistently?  Which areas do you feel like you need work on?  Like with anything else, self-improvement comes from awareness, a desire to change, knowledge, and application of knowledge. And in this case, you are not only helping yourself, but you can help your young athlete as well.  You too can be an amazing sports parent!

What does US Soccer’s new mandates mean for you?

The implementation of US Soccer’s 2015 Player Development initiatives is right around the corner.  There has been lots of discussion on the topic, but few concrete answers, which is leaving many involved in youth soccer a bit confused and unsettled about what these changes will mean for players.  These initiatives are changing the youth soccer landscape completely, so there are a lot of unknowns for parents, coaches and players alike. The bottom line is, what’s best for the kids? Do these mandates help or hurt?

Here in Oregon, youth tryouts for club soccer are taking place May 9-14.  In this article we will take a closer look at the changes coming up, give our take on them, and what they will mean for the youth soccer community.

{SPINw is hosting Tryout Prep Mental Game Workshops to help players go into tryouts focused & confident}  -Click on the link below for more information and to register-

SPINw Soccer Tryout Prep Workshop 2016

First off, why all the changes?  Why now?

Click here for a video explanation from US Soccer

According to US Soccer, here’s the reasoning behind the changes:

Despite the increased popularity of soccer and the success of our national teams, the youth soccer landscape at the entry level needs to be improved.
Our soccer culture at the youth level focuses on winning and results rather than focusing on developing the skills of individual players.
The concept of a team outweighs the importance of players having fun and developing to the best of their abilities.
As a country, we need coaches and parents to spend less time caring about wins and loses, and more time devoted to teaching individual skills.
Part of this initiative is to educate and empower coaches and parents to change the way we look at the sport.
One example of this is U.S. Soccer’s new online F License, which is designed for coaches working with players ages 6-8.

Our take:  Hard to disagree with the reasoning behind it. Player development over winning titles, especially at the younger ages, is common sense (although sadly, not so common, which is why some changes are needed!) In sport psychology, we strive to have athletes focus on the process, improving skills, and growing as a player over results. So this logic fits from a development perspective. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win, and learning to compete, but it should not be more important than technical and tactical player development.

First initiative – Small-Sided Standards

Basically, the size of the field and the number of players on the field start smaller and progress as players get older (see chart above). Here’s the why according to US Soccer:

Fewer players on the field means more touches on the ball and more involvement in the game, which helps develop more individual skill.
Players who are more skilled may become more confident and comfortable when in possession of the ball.
The ratio of players to field size is designed to assist players with making the right kind of decisions and improving their awareness.
As players get older, and numbers increase on bigger fields, this approach builds on itself.
And as players get older, the building block approach also allows them to better integrate into a team model where they develop partnerships with other players that make up the team.
Overall, the standards provide for an age appropriate environment where players can achieve these objectives.

Our take:  Love this one, no problems here.  For player development it’s great, and should have been done long ago!

Bonus part of this initiative:  The Build Out line.  This one hasn’t been talked about as much as the others, but we love it.  Basically, the build out line forces teams to play out of the back. The keeper is not allowed to punt the ball, and defenders must give a little space and time for the defense to start the play.  This will be in effect through the U10 age group (7 v 7).


Second initiative – Birth Year Registration

2015 Player Development Initiatives 21

This is the one that’s caused the most ruckus. Here’s why, according to US Soccer:

Not only will this change align our players with the international standard, but it will allow us to be better informed to combat relative age effect when making teams for youth players.

According to wikipedia, the relative age effect is:

“The term relative age effect (RAE) is used to describe a bias, evident in the upper echelons of youth sport[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][1] and academia,[2][3] where participation is higher amongst those born early in the relevant selection period (and correspondingly lower amongst those born late in the selection period) than would be expected from the normalised distribution of live births. The selection period is usually the calendar year, the academic year or the sporting season.

Our take: This is pretty ill-conceived, and the cons outweigh the stated benefits. The relative age effect doesn’t magically go away by making this change. It just shifts to a new birthday.  In the best-seller Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell describes the relative age effect in hockey where a majority of high level older players are born in January, February and March.  Is this change really going to help the US produce the next Lionel Messi or win a World Cup?  It seems highly doubtful.  This mandate flies in the face of the stated objectives. The real objective behind this is to prepare players to become national team caliber players, meaning a fraction of a percent of players will see any benefit from it.

The negatives – There are several, but here are the top three as we see them:
1) Teams that have been together for years will be dismantled –
2) Teams will not be primarily based on school grade level – for recreational teams especially,  this mandate doesn’t make sense. A big part of the fun of playing soccer is playing with your friends and classmates, and this basically takes that part of youth soccer and makes it more difficult.
3) Rising 8th graders and high school seniors may have limited options for a team or worse, left without a team.

Our overall take:  So there are some clear cut plusses and minuses with the new changes.  And some major uncertainty.  But don’t fear, our take is this – The next 6 months or so will be rough and chaotic, but after that we will forget it ever happened. Sports is like life, in that change is the only constant.  We want our young athletes to learn, grow, become resilient, be problem-solvers, and be able to handle adversity.  That’s how to build confidence.  So if you look at it that way, it’s not that big a deal in the long run.  It’s up to the adults to keep that in mind as we head toward this unknown territory in youth soccer.


What to do about abusive coaches

Coaches are teachers, motivators, amateur sport psychologists, and parental figures. A great coach can teach life lessons that go on well beyond the playing field, while a bad coach can make a young athlete hate sports and quit playing altogether. I was like many young athletes, figuring that the leap from a high school level to the collegiate level would mean not only higher competition, but better coaching, and wow, was I wrong about that.  A recent Sports Illustrated article details some disturbing stats about how collegiate athletes are treated by their coaches. (This podcast echos the article and is worth the listen).  In one study cited in the article:

“39% of women’s basketball players strongly agreed that “my head coach can be trusted.” 61% of these athletes do not trust the person who is suposed to be their biggest ally and advocate?  The article also goes on to say:

“Even more alarming, athletes have never been more psychologically vulnerable, reflecting a trend among all college students. The ACHA assessment found that 41% of athletes had “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” and 52% had “felt overwhelming anxiety,” with the figures for women jumping to 45% and 59%, respectively. Further, 14% of athletes said they had “seriously considered suicide,” with 6% having attempted it.”

A similar article was written 5 years ago, but it doesn’t seem like much has changed, despite the assertion that:  “That shift has forced coaches to adjust. Abuse simply won’t be tolerated.”  But it still happens.  Within those 5 years we’ve seen Illinois football coach fired, video of Rutgers basketball coach throwing balls at a player while berating him, Florida football coach Jim McElwain curse out a player on national tv, and a high school football coach order his players to assault a referee during a game.


What is going on here? Have times changed? Are the athletes of today simply a product of the self-esteem generation, where everyone gets a trophy and helicopter parents control their lives?  I think there may be some truth to that, but it’s on a case by case basis.  In the Jim McElwain case, he apologized and publicly stated that his 94-year old mother admonished him on the phone, while the player on the receiving end of the outburst, Kelvin Taylor, said: “I understand exactly what Coach Mac was doing,” Taylor said this week. “He was just in the moment. He was fed up. He’s just trying to discipline us. That’s what the whole team needed. That’s going to make the team better.”

But many other cases are very real, and coaches take the negative motivational tactics too far. College coaches are playing for their jobs, and under tons of stress.  Many of them are simply coaching the way they were coached back in their day as athletes.  And some are just power hungry people who like to use their position to intimidate and get their way. In consulting with athletes over the years, I’ve had multiple collegiate female athletes tell me their coach called them “fat” in a very derogatory manner, in a pathetic attempt to motivate them – how they think this is going to be effective, I’m not sure. I have had more youth athletes than I care to count come into my office where the coaching or the overall team environment is so bad that they don’t even want to go to practice.  The very activity that is supposed to be an escape from the stressors of life, where you can lose yourself in the moment, work out and be physically healthy, bond with teammates, and learn valuable life lessons, can become stressful and overwhelming obligations.

So, what can be done about these abusive coaches?  There is a fine line between tough love coaching and abuse. And whereas in the past, that line was determined by the coach, more recently that line is being defined by the athletes, for better or worse. While there can be some debate about what is abuse, there is no debate that things need to get better.  No matter what position you are in, there is a role for you to enact change.  SPINw can help your school or program make sure that coaching abuse doesn’t happen for your athletes. Here are some ideas:

Athletic Directors – ADs and administrators can help by making sure their program has a clearly defined culture, complete with a Vision Statement, Mission Statement, and Core Values.  Provide continuing education for coaches a couple times a year – after all, the best coaches are striving to learn, grow and improve,  just like they expect their players to.  Finally, consider having a sport psychology consultant or mental game coach on staff, or at the very least develop a relationship so that your athletes have access to this service.

Coaches – Follow your program’s aforementioned Vision, Mission, and Core Values – that is the “process” to follow in order to achieve the results you want. When the goal is winning, you can motivate your players just as well through positive tactics as negative ones. Set clearly defined goals, standards and expectations for your players, and include rewards/punishments for adhering to them or not.  And finally, communicate, communicate, communicate with your athletes!

sport psychology portland oregon lacrosse

Parents – As your athletes grow, make sure to empower them in their relationships with their coaches. Don’t jump in and save them at any sign of trouble, but be there to support and problem-solve. There are sure to be ups and downs in sports, and the best parents help their kids to understand that they aren’t entitled to much in life, and earning something is the best way to build confidence, character, and self-esteem. As athletes begin to get older, it’s also fair to let them know that the potential exists for overbearing coaches, but they have some control over the situation.  Finally, consider having your athlete work with a sport psychology consultant to bolster their mental game.

Linus 1 Linus

Athletes – Athletes can work on recognizing the difference between tough love coaching, criticism, and negativity vs. out right abuse.  In working with athletes I teach them to listen from a different perspective, to be able to handle criticism to help make changes and improve performance, not to take everything personally. For example, a young athlete may feel like the coach is singling them out for negative attention. But on further examination, that coach treats most athletes the same way, that’s just his or her style, which they have been doing for years.  In this case, the coach isn’t going to change, but how you choose to listen and take the information is in your control, and therefore changeable.

Interested in having an athlete work with a sport psychology professional?

The mental game is just as important to success as the tactical, technical and physical elements.  But ask most athletes and they will tell you they put the least amount of work into the confidence, focus, and emotional control.  To work on technique, put in extra time with a coach or supplement training with private lessons.  For tactics, you can read books, watch game film, and ask coaches. Physically athletes can train with a strength and conditioning coach or see a nutritionist.  But how do athletes, coaches and teams go about deliberately improving the mental game?  That’s where sport psychology comes in.  It’s not just a reactive measure for athletes who are struggling, either.  See the spectrum below.

SPINw Mental Game Performance Spectrum



Insights for sports parents heading into the new school year

Whether it’s your daughter’s first season of kindergarten soccer, or your son’s senior year at linebacker, parents can have the same nervous-wracking/exciting feelings the kid has as the season approaches. Throughout the season, you are bound to experience a wide range of emotions: joy, exhilaration, frustration, bewilderment, and anger. You will witness amazing displays of sportsmanship, jaw-dropping incompetence, and uncomfortable moments of conflict.  But it’s nothing compared to what your young athlete will go through, how they will experience it all.

Throughout it all, the main role of the sports parent is to know the Big Picture.

For kids, each game will be the most important event in their life!  You know that it’s just a blip on the long-term radar.  For kids, tryouts can make or break the whole year. You know that no matter how it goes, they will learn from it.  For kids, bad calls, disagreements with teammates and coaches, and bad bounces, might be proof that the world is against them. You know that all those things are a part of life, and how you deal with them is much more important that the situation itself.

But sometimes we parents can get caught up in the moment. Sometimes as parents we forget. As you approach this season, here are three important facts to help you remember to see sports in the Big Picture context of life.

1) A very small percentage of high school athletes will play in college. An even smaller amount will earn a scholarship to play in college. And an even smaller percentage will play in the pros.  Check out what the NCAA has to say about this.
If your child has college or professional aspirations, great!  Encourage them and support them, just don’t make those dreams your own. If a player is going to make it there it will take hard work, a great attitude, sacrifice, athleticism, and yes, a little luck.  None of these are traits you can force on your kids, but they are all things that you can emphasize and encourage.

2) Playing sports is highly beneficial for whatever goals a young person has later in life. Many in the business industry, such as Forbes, the BBC , and others note that the discipline, sacrifice, and teamwork are the obvious reasons athletes succeed later in life.  But maybe even more importantly is that sports gives you a chance to fail, and learn how to fail, how to get up and keep going, how to adjust your attitude quickly, and learn how to handle pressure and high expectations.

As this video says: “There are over 400,000 NCAA student athletes, and almost all of us will be going pro in something other than sports.”

3) The most successful athletes are not a product of being pushed relentlessly by their parents or coaches (the teacher in “Whiplash” had it all wrong!).  Sports Illustrated recently ran an article about former NBA star Rex Chapman.  This part about his dad, himself a basketball coach, really hits home:

“On one of the few occasions when he saw his son play, Rex recalls scoring more than 40 points and grabbing nearly 20 rebounds. He came home thinking his dad would have to say something good about him. Instead, when he asked Wayne what he thought, his father replied, “I want to know when you’re gonna take a f—— charge.”

The article is sadly about Rex’s drug abuse and theft arrest, and how he is re-building his life.  Read up on other similar tales in Todd Marinovich, Andre Agassi, Cody Hawkins, and other athletes whose parents drove them too hard, and for too long.  On one hand, they made it, on the other hand, they are now suffering from it.

The Big Picture: Sports helps keep kids active, healthy, making relationships, learning, and developing life-long skills. So go out there, have fun, cheer, and get into it! But also sit back and enjoy the process, the growth, and the learning.

SPINw consultants work with athletes and teams to achieve peak performance on a more consistent basis though building confidence, positivity, and controlling emotions in sports.  We also work with coaches and parents so that they can help their athletes succeed in the mental game.

What would you do? Sport Parent edition

portland sport psychology what would you do

Most of us have seen the ABC show What Would You Do?  For those who haven’t, it’s a hidden camera show where actors act out pretty inappropriate conversations and actions in public.  Then the show captures the reactions of normal everyday people to see how they handle these super uncomfortable situations.  Host John Quinones then comes out of hiding to interview the unsuspecting citizens.

Sometimes, as a soccer parent, I’m left wondering where the cameras are hidden because I can’t believe I am watching adults act the way they are acting.  Of course, most of the games go on as they should – with supportive parents and family members cheering on their sons and daughters as they compete.  But there are others where the parents berate 14 year old referees, 10 year old players from the opposing team, and each other.  Those times when things just get way out of hand.

As a sports parent, most of us behave ourselves.  Maybe occasionally we’ll let a “come on ref!” slip out, but for the most part we keep it together, keep it respectful, and display positive sportsmanship.  But do we stand up when the bad apples act up?  Have we ever left a game thinking “I really should have said or done something!” when another parent got out of control?  It can be a really tricky situation, talking to a stranger, or even someone we know, about their behavior.  It can be uncomfortable!

So my question is, What would you do?   Here are a couple situations I’ve witnessed or heard about.  I’m sure you have witnessed or heard about stories like this to.   Did you have success with it?  Share your “what would you do” moment to help other parents who find themselves in the same situation, but are unsure what to do.

Situation 1
A group of parents from another team in the league, waiting for their kids’ game to start, sits a few yards behind you.  From that moment until the end of the game, you feel like you are in a middle school cafeteria with all the gossiping and trash talking.  This group of parents does on and on: “that is the dirtiest team in the league” “they are always diving” “oh look the ref is favoring them like always”  “their parents are awful” “they never shut up.”   They are talking about your kid’s team, not knowing you are affiliated with them.

What would you do?

Situation 2
Your kids are warming up and in the game before theirs, between two U-10 teams, a questionable offside is not called and a goal is scored. A parent from the team who got the bad end of the call goes completely ballistic at the referee, who appears to be about 13 years old.

What would you do?

Situation 3
A parent from your own child’s team gets down on his own kid, constantly berating him to work harder, constantly coaching her from the sidelines.

What would you do?

Most sports parents have encountered these scenarios. Sometime we act, but mostly we don’t.  Share your past experience on how you handled your situation, to give other parents and idea on what to do.  Because, odds are good that it will happen again, and you don’t want to regret that you did nothing.


Be a Student of Parenting

Parent manualby Brian Baxter

I had been talking to my new friend Thomas for about 5 minutes at a Christmas party before the conversation turned to our kids. We found that we shared an interest in coaching as well as being a good parent. After exchanging stories, we decided that you know what? Parenting is hard! He summed it up nicely: “The more I do this, the more I realize I am just a student of parenting.”

The notion of being a “student of parenting” struck a resonant chord with me. I played sports all my life, coached for 20 years and refereed for a couple years. And most recently, a sports parent for 6 years.  In my early days, I know what advice I gave people on sports parenting, and could easily tell them what to do. But, as with most things in life, it didn’t hit me until I experienced it for myself: “This is harder than it looks!”

That’s what my new friend learned, too. He’d been through a rough upbringing and work in a social worker environment where parenting was downright awful. He is determined to be the best dad he can be. Our paths had been different, but we had arrived in the same place: no, we’re not perfect, but we’re aware. Aware that we want the best for our kids, aware that we are not always doing what’s best for our kids, and aware that we can continue to adjust, learn, and grow.

Flavors-Combo-Desk1-297x300STUDENT –  noun

          1.  a person formally engaged in learning, especially one enrolled in a school or college; pupil
          2. any person who studies, investigates, or examines thoughtfully

Students learn and improve over time, and take an active role in doing so. As athletes grow, gain experience, and learn their sport, they improve. They find ways to be better than that were before. They learn what works and what doesn’t. Parents can do this too!

Many parents who are new to sports parenting may act poorly or make bad decisions not because they are bad people, but because they have no experience. Make sure that you are aware that your behavior has a great impact on the mindset of your kids, and thus their performance. As your athlete grows and improves, it’s crucial that you take an active role in improving as well.

Double_Call_Out_453x255_Parent_Tips     The Story of Kevin and Aaron

Here’s an example of what happens if you don’t grow with your athlete. Kevin, a high school basketball/football player I worked with was having a really hard time with his dad. The dad, Aaron, thought Kevin was just having trouble with focus and confidence, and brought him in to have me help re-build the confidence he once had.  During our first meeting, it became clear to me that the problem mainly as a communication issue between the two.  The problem turned out to be this:

Kevin was getting increasingly more nervous/frustrated/distracted by his dad in the stands. In turn, Aaron got frustrated/anxious/upset at his son’s below average performance, and what he saw as lack of effort and focus. As we talked it became clear that the interpersonal patterns developed in the younger years did not grow and change as the player matured. At age 5, the player would make a basket, look up at his dad with a “hey dad, did you see that!?” look, to which the dad responded with cheers. Fast forward to age 15, and this same interaction became player making a basket and being embarrassed to do the same.  However, a missed a basket or mistake made him look up at the parent expecting a look of disappointment.

Together we decided that Kevin was to remain focused solely on the court, and wasn’t allowed to look up in the stands at his dad any more.  Aaron agreed to sit in a more inconspicuous place in the gym. Also, they decided to both cool down emotionally after games, and would not talk about the game until after dinner that night.  As the player and father both realized the patterns that had been developed, they were able to agree on solutions, making Aaron a better and more supportive sports parent, and Kevin a more focused and confident performer.

Parent manual      How to be a student of parenting.

When to push? When to ease off? When to ask questions, and when to leave well enough alone? When are we making the sport more about us, and not enough about the person playing it: our kids? If you are consistently asking yourself these questions and reflecting on them, you are already doing a great job! You are being a student. If not, if you just assume that what’s worked in the past should work now, you need to start asking the questions. As John O’Sullivan says in his book Changing the Game Project, there is no owner’s manual for kids. It is up to us to make sure we are learning, growing, and adapting.

Here are some ways to be a “Student of Parenting”:

1) Actively seek out articles weekly.  The internet, Facebook, and other social media are great ways to keep sports parenting in the front of your mind.. I find it really helpful to follow Changing the Game Project and on Facebook.

2) Read a book on sports parenting. I’d suggest John O’Sullivan’s Changing the Game or Tom Morin’s No More Broken Eggs.

3) Set up an appointment with a SPINw consultant. We not only work with athletes individually, but we do private work with parents and coaches too. With all athletes under the age of 18, parents are a big part of the process.

4) Bring a SPINw consultant into your club or school meeting to present a Sports Parent Education workshop.

5) Coming soon at SPINw: Download the The Sports Parent Mindset Gameplan

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.”

Great new book for Sports Parents

Over the past 20 years or so, the youth sports landscape has changed dramatically.  As a coach and sport psychology consultant, I am frequently approached by parents of young players who wonder about the next step.  

“Should my athlete play competitive or rec next year?”  

“What is the difference between this club team and that club team?”  

“We’re being asked to play this one sport year-round – should we do that?”

SPINw friend John O’Sullivan has a brand new book, Changing the Game, aimed at the sports parent that can help answer these questions, and help be the best sports parent possible.
Sport Psychology Portland Parent Education

When you think of youth sports and more specifically sports parents, most people think of:

          -poor behavior
          -living vicariously through kids
          -misplaced priorities

Basically, all the things we think are counter-productive to the youth sports experience.  O’Sullivan has put together a young athlete owner’s manual, to help parents avoid these obstacles, and as the subtitle says “Raise happy, high performing athletes, and give youth sports back to our kids.

For more information about John and his Changing the Game Project, click here.