Insights for sports parents heading into the new school year

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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.

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