I have observed parents that have been too underactive and too overactive in their child’s sport. There is a fine balance between being the micro-managing parent and the parent that just has their child in sport as a babysitter. In over 36 years of coaching, I have dealt with every parent imaginable; I was at a national seminar several years ago when Marijane Stong came up with these wonderful thoughts on the role of the parent. I have handed this synopsis of Marijane’s thoughts to every new parent that I have had the pleasure of meeting.
This article originated to figure skating however, I have adapted it to include team sports.
1. Choose Wisely (Part One): Choose a club, clubs or center that will accommodate the needs of your child, whatever they may be. Sometimes, this means that the athlete needs to billet away from home. We see this more and more in all sports as good developmental programs are not always available in the individuals’ area. However; I am seeing more and smaller organizations creating and building complete programs to develop their club athletes. A complete program is essential to your athletes growth in any sport.
2. Choose Wisely (Part Two): For individual sports: Select your coach and/ or coaches carefully. Choose the right person for their teaching and coaching abilities but also consider that the coach will be a role model for your child. The coach (s) will spend considerable time with your child and this must be a positive experience in all aspects of overall development. Take time while shopping for a coach(s) and remember that a picture is worth a thousand words. Watch them teaching other children and see how they interact and present themselves.
In recent years, team coaching has become an integral part of creating strong athletes. I am a firm believer in team coaching. The head coach is the manager and main technician for the skater. Quite often the team consists of Music Editor and Studio, Choreographer, Seamstress, Conditioning Coach, Plyometric Coach, Flexibility Coach and sometimes even jump and dance classes. The head coach must keep all of this team pulled together and working as a team.
For team sports: You can’t always select your coach, however, all athletes in all sports need additional training to better their own personal development. Such as, hockey, regular practices are great to work on plays and develop heads up hockey for games. However; Skating Technique Training, Conditioning, Weight training as well as Plyometric sessions is essential to the development of the player. Choose the right “Power Skating” & Land training Program that is going to give your child what they need to continue to develop. Many of the Olympic, Professional, Major Junior hockey teams have a Professional Figure Skating Coach on staff to truly develop the players to their full potential.
3. Let the Coach Be the Expert: Support the coach and coaching team, and understand what the coach expects from you. Together, the parent(s), athlete and the coach(s) can create a wonderful package. Packaging is what it’s all about today in all sports. Let the coach be the coach. They are the experts.
4. Trust: A trust must develop between coach and parent. Honesty on both sides is a must. Always be realistic. At the same time, don’t let a coach coerce you into something you cannot afford or with which you don’t feel comfortable. Trust works both ways. Such situations can be avoided if you are involved in the planning process. So, number five is…
5. Be Part of Planning: Take part in the planning process. After all, the parents are the consumers.
Some key points to consider when planning are:
– Budget – do only what you can afford
– Develop a yearly plan
– Make short and long term goals
– Decide on your commitment
– Discuss equipment long before it’s needed to avoid last minute panic
– Consider what other programs are essential
– Evaluate progress realistically
– Insist on days off
– Set up appointments or consultations with the coach or coaches to discus and to decide on all the above.
I personally strongly believe there should be a Parent, Skater, Coach (s) consultation at the beginning of the season to create the plan and quarterly meetings or consults to evaluate the plan and adjust accordingly.
6. Be Aware of Over-Lessoning: The “more is better” approach to lessons does not always work. Insist on the development of independence and good work habits. An athlete that is in individual sport should have at least one day each week to take control of their own training. Babysitting is not good coaching. If nothing is learned then nothing has been taught. Supervised practice is beneficial but can be more cost efficient in a group lesson format. There are learning curves however when lessons must be repeated and this must always be taken into consideration.
7. Integrate Off-Ice Training: Cross training plays an important role in the development of all athletes. Off- ice training, such as conditioning, plyometrics and some type of dance class are essential for figure skaters. Conditioning, plyometrics and weight training are essential for hockey players. The athlete will progress at a much faster rate if the body is fit. Proper fitness levels will also help insure that athlete’s remain injury free. Any off-ice training plan must be established with the coach, the athlete, the parent(s) and applicable experts in the field.
8. Be Proactive in Your Child’s General Health: If a machine is to perform well it must be properly fuelled. It is the parents’ responsibility to provide proper nutrition and care for the general health and well-being of their child, both physically and emotionally. It is important to understand that your child’s nutritional needs as an athlete will differ from that of a child not involved in competitive sport. Turn to experts for assistance if this is an area with which you are unfamiliar. Your coach should be able to provide guidance as to available resources.
9. Encourage Education: A good education is important to a good athlete.
10. Review Scheduling: Days off are essential for rest, family time, homework and friends.
11. Become Aware: Understand the sports programs and development system. Know the sport your child is participating in along with its challenges and opportunities. Seek out information from your club, Section or Regional office and /or governing body. A subscription to your sports magazine, newsletter, and regular visits to the governing bodies’ web site will provide you with all the information you need to know.
12. Be Positive: Support your athlete with positive feedback. Be there for your child always. Love your child as much after a poor performance as after a great one. Your child’s place in your heart does not depend on his/her place on the podium.
13. Keep a Sound Perspective: Enjoy the process – the rewards are greater. A good athletic parent is simply a good parent. A baby thrives on love, security and routine. This formula endures.
A child’s involvement in sport has incredible impact on their development as human beings. Providing a sound and supportive environment will ensure that this development is a happy and healthy one.
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