Sports Love & family

Learning Life's Lessons through Sports


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The Dilemma of the Multi-Sport Athlete…

If your child is nearing high school age, and is a multi-sport athlete, chances are you’ve had conversations about them specializing or choosing one sport over another. You’ve probably had these conversations with each other, with your child and with coaches. With so much emphasis on winning, the pressure for coaches to have high performing teams is insurmountable. Some high school coaches are putting pressure on players to dedicate time to only their sport, instead of spreading time between other sports. When faced with this situation, there’s a few things to consider.
First, consider the source. Are you having these conversations with coaches? Let’s remember many coaches motivation is self-serving (remember myself and husband coach and it’s not every coach). Most coaches are not looking out for your child, they are looking out for their team or even themselves. Take what the coach says with a grain of salt and know there’s another coach waiting in the wings to discuss their intentions for your child, and most likely it’s the opposite of what you just heard.
Another source to consider is friends of your child. I bet you’re discussing this with them as well. While other parents are great sounding boards, friends of your child’s or teammates are probably not the best ones to discuss this decision. Again, part of their intention is self-serving. They want the best for their child first. While I know they care about your kid, that comes second to their flesh and blood. Any decision you make could have an impact on their child and therefore they may not be helping.
Now, I’m not saying to cease conversations with coaches and friends of the family, but I am telling you to take their opinions at face value. I don’t preach advice often, but take my advice here, listen and discuss with these people, but in the end don’t do what they want.
And lastly, the absolute most important thing to consider, is your child. Your child’s emotional well-being, your child’s development. How will this decision affect them, in the short-term and long-term? Have very real and truthful conversations with your kid. To many people this decision seems inconsequential. And maybe in the big-picture of life it is. But, for the next four years of your child’s life this decision is immense!
To your child, the weight of this decision could mean the difference of a college choice, could mean the difference of being a collegiate athlete, could mean the difference of giving up activities they’ve done from the time they were a tiny tot. This decision could change their identity or who they think they are or are going to be. This decision can change the course of how they thought things in high school were going to play out. So, yes, to an outsider looking in, it appears this decision is small in scale. But, to your child, it is EVERYTHING right now.
When faced with the decision to commit to one sport or to continue being a multi-sport athlete take all things into consideration. Think about the focus and time and money that will be poured into one sport or multiple, if that’s the decision. Think about how to balance it all, or just how to balance the one and school. Think about what the next four years looks like and the end goal. But, most of all, think about how this decision will impact the one you love the most, the athlete, your child.


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Creating a Culture

Dear Coach,

I love [insert your sport here]. I work hard and I try my best. At every practice I do everything I can to show you I deserve to be here. I work to impress you and my family. My parents believe in me. I believe in me.
I seem to have all I need, right? Well, I’m missing one thing. I’m missing your unconditional support. I know that you’re there to push me. I know that you believe in my abilities. What I don’t get from you is support “no matter what.”
If I’m hurt or not feeling my best, I’m afraid to tell you. I’m afraid of how you’ll treat me or how you’ll look at me like your disappointed. I’m sacrificing my body and my ability so I don’t have to confront you.
Sincerely,
Your player
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Does this situation sound familiar to you? Do you know an athlete whom struggles with an injury or a poor performance or two and wants nothing to do with talking to the coach? Unfortunately, this is all too familiar in our uber-competitive society. It’s the “whatever it takes to win” attitude. Take it from me, I’m as competitive as the next person, but when the athlete begins to sacrifice their mental and physical being for the game, we have a very serious problem. And fortunately, this problem can be resolved and even avoided. You may not like what I’m about to say, but, it begins with you, the Coach.
Yep, I said it. You can be the winningest coach, the smartest coach, the most motivating coach, but you also can be a culture crushing coach. What do I mean by that? One asset that many coaches do not have is learning and understanding their players. We expect this of our children’s teachers on a daily basis. We want the teachers to understand our children and tailor their lesson plans for each of them. Why do we expect it of teachers, but not of coaches?
As a coach, it is your responsibility to learn your players, to understand what motivates each of them. Players, just like students, are motivated differently. It is part of your duty to learn how to get the best out of each them. As well as, knowing when something isn’t right, like an injury. If you have an acute knowledge of your players, then you should be able to recognize when they are not 100%. Recognizing it is one thing, how you handle it, is another.

A player should never be afraid to tell their coach about an injury. Players are silenced because of the fear of being benched. Having an injury shouldn’t mean punishment. Show your player you care. Show them you are concerned more with their wellbeing than with winning the game. A little compassion at the beginning could save a lot of heartache in the end.


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Why do I Coach, Why do you Coach?

I began the process of writing this blog by asking myself one simple question, why do I coach? Why do I do it? What started my inner drive to help others try and become better people, both on and off the field? What do I possess that makes me the type of person that would want to take on this role? What were the things that I experienced in my life that caused me to want to take on this very important role for others? Is it that I get to dive head first into someone else’s world and try to help them grow? Is it that I get to share in their successes and help them through their failures?

The answer always comes back to the same common theme. I coach because I believe it is important to have good people who want to make a difference in kids lives. This is all I have ever known. As long as I can remember I have known that there was something bigger than just me, I am just a part of this world yet I still have an opportunity to make a big difference. I truly believe that all of these parts come together to help form who a person is and what a person is all about. Knowing that youth athletes are at different points along a continuum, I want to be a part of helping them recognize they are capable of greatness. This was instilled in me by my parents and coaches. They taught me to be there for others and to try and have a positive influence on others. I feel now, more than ever, we need each other. I think we owe it to ourselves, and others, to open up and share what we have learned. Coaching is about motivating kids to try and be better today than they were yesterday.

I have chosen to follow what I believe is important. I have found something in me to share with others that I enjoy. It gives me a purpose and shows others a skill that if I chose not to share it, I would not have a completeness in my life. Being a coach allows me to be bigger than I am. Are you here to contribute something larger then yourself? Is this why you coach?


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Knowing Your Role: The Parent

“The sign of great parenting is not the child’s behavior. The sign of truly great parenting is the parent’s behavior.”

That quote says it all. We’ve come to the fourth and final role in our series. The role of parent is the most important, most influential of all. This post isn’t about how to be a good or great parent (I’m sure someone has written one). This is about parenting young athletes. It’s about our behavior and how it ultimately affects our children. In my years of coaching high school volleyball and my eight years being involved in youth sports, I’ve seen it all. I’m rarely surprised by parental behavior. Let’s remember what our role is for our athletes, the supporter.

The most important trait you should own as a parent is unconditional support. When times are good but mostly when times are bad. Be there. Guess what, you don’t even need to say anything. If you struggle with finding positives or constructive criticism, the best thing you can do for your child is just be there. A pat on the back, a squeeze of the side, a genuine look of ‘I love you’ is enough. Because news flash, you are enough for your child. Being there and watching is enough.

I think some parents try to show their love to their kid through yelling and being boisterous. When in fact, the opposite is most likely true. Don’t believe me, ask your kid. Really, ask them how they want you to behave at their games. They’ll let you know.

The next important thing as a parent is to let them play, develop and have fun. On the same note, let the coaches coach. Don’t impede the player or coach from doing their job. Remember, your job is to support. That means letting the coach do their job at games and practices, it doesn’t mean you coach from the stands. Coaching from the stands takes away natural instincts from players.

The best advice I can give to a parent of an athlete that has helped me maintain my calm at events, is to recite in my head “He/she is trying his/her best and they are having fun.” Remember, you are at a youth sports event, it is not life or death or the difference of getting a scholarship or not. I also like to think to myself, would I want my children to behave this way. If you don’t want your child to emulate your behavior, maybe you should change it…

 


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Knowing Your Role: The Player

“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. “ – Vince Lombardi

I was a player before I was a coach or a parent. But, it was a long time ago; today I’m a co-worker and those values I learned long ago, serve me today. Now as a parent, I must remember what that was like, so I can share those experiences with my kids. Last time we talked about what it means to be a coach, to guide your players, to teach them the sport. Well, as the player your most important task is to be a good learner. This means showing up ready to work. This means being present and ready to learn. It means trying your best 100% of the time.

Once you join a team, there is no more I or me. As a player your child’s responsibility is to themselves, their coach and their team. If they have leadership tendencies, encourage them to step up and be that person for their teammates. Be there to pick them up, be there to encourage them. Be a doer, but also a shower (that’s almost more important). Show them that you always hustle, show them that you always give 100%, show them that when you struggle you are able to move on from it. If your child is not comfortable being a leader, encourage them be a team player, because that’s important, and it’s important to know how you can best contribute to the team.

A team player is someone that shows up to do their job. At practice their job is to listen to instruction, be respectful to the coach and teammates and try their best. At a game their job is to do all of the above but most importantly support each and everyone on the team. Cheer on your teammates. Give high fives or fist bumps, a pat on the back or a “good job” or “you’ll get it next time”. As a player they need to learn the game and try their best, as a team player they need to be the biggest supporter of each of their teammates.

Let your children know they don’t need to be best friends with their teammates, in fact they don’t even need to be friends. When you walk on that playing surface you’re teammates, no matter what else is happening around you. And if you’re all friends and want to spend time together afterwards, that’s just icing on the cake. This is the time when they’ll create memories that last forever. Enjoy it, live in this moment, because it really does go so fast.

One thing you will take away from being a teammate, is learning how to work with all different kinds of people and it will serve you your entire life. Remind your child that their individual commitment to the team is what makes the team work, and later, the company and society work. And that means we’re learning life’s lessons through sports!


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Knowing Your Role: The Coach

“A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”

The coach of the team is the leader, the CEO of the organization so to speak. You alone have the ability to make or break a child’s spirit (that’s a lot of power). Parents have entrusted you to teach and guide their children in sport. As parents we feel you are our child’s guardian while in your presence. To be the voice of reason, the disciplinarian, the authority figure and to teach and manage the game.

As a coach your role is to lead your players. This doesn’t mean you need to win every game. This means guide them and teach them the fundamentals of the game and what it means to be on a team. You must support each player (unconditionally). You must recognize each of them has a role and each of them is important to the entire team. Each player should leave a practice or game knowing more than when they came and wanting to come back. If you’re breaking spirits and squashing their love of the game, you’re not doing your job. There’s no need to coddle, and there’s no need to berate. There’s a balance for each individual that will help them develop. Encourage as much as you can.

Set realistic goals for the individuals and the team. Help them reach those goals. Be there when things are good and more importantly when things aren’t. Know your players. Know their strengths and their weaknesses. Know things about them, other than their talent level. Put them in situations where they can succeed and allow them opportunities to grow. Help them build upon their strengths and improve their weaknesses; that way they’re always moving in a positive direction.

Do you have what it takes to positively affect a child’s life?


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Knowing Your Role

Introducing the first in this four-part series about ‘Knowing Your Role’. To us this means knowing what you bring to your team and realizing that each role on the team is important. Join us as we discuss what roles we have, and then as we dive into the various roles on a team (Coach, Player and Parent).

Part I: Knowing Your Role
As adults we have careers, and within that career we have specific assignments or expectations of us. One thing that prepared us for this was playing sports growing up. It’s important to know your role on a team. We know that not everyone can be the coach, or the captain or the number one pitcher. We each have a specific role and each role is important (please remember to tell this to your children constantly).

As parents, we need to educate our children on this. Our kids learn this lesson in school daily, some may realize it and others probably don’t. This is another reason why sports play such a pivotal role in the development of a child. This is how I think we can control the sense of “entitlement-age” we’re living in.

We explain to our children that your team is like working for a company. You have the boss, which is your coach. You have other supervisors, which are the assistant coaches. You have the worker-bees, which are the players. Within that set you all have specialties, or in a company they might be departments. Everyone has a job description, everyone has a position they play. We tell our kids they are only 1/9th (baseball/softball) or 1/5th (basketball) of their team; because you can only control YOUR ACTIONS. However, if someone needs help performing their duties, typically others pick up the slack, because we are ONE team.

The greater good of the company is defined by how well each person performs their role. The success of the team is defined the same way. But, success can only be achieved when the right people are put in the right roles to obtain the best outcome. You can’t put someone at first base whom can’t catch the ball, it’s setting them up to fail. If each of us understand our role and accept it and know that our role is important to the greater good, success should follow.

The difficult part is not knowing your role, it’s understanding it’s importance to the team. When kids are little they hate playing outfield because at a young age they don’t receive much action. It’s our job to make sure they realize that there’s more to that role than catching a fly ball. On every pitch, every player should be moving and they should know where they’ll ultimately end up should that pitch be hit. At the youth level outfielders backing up infielders is critical on each play. I’ve seen many bases and runs given up because there wasn’t someone backing up a throw.

Explaining early on to our children that not everyone can be a pitcher or a point guard, will help them understand the importance of each role on a TEAM. Not everyone is going to be able to, nor want to be the CEO of a company, or the Vice President of a department. As long as we’re teaching our kids to be team players and that their own success can contribute to the greater good of the team or organization.