I recently received a call from a coach who wanted to know how to deal with a parent. This parent was inquiring as to their son’s participation in an individualized and specialized coaching scenario after the season was over.
Let me explain my opinion on this phenomenon of specialized coaching, and for that matter, participation in said coaching. An athlete can improve at his or her sport by not playing it. Yes, that seems outrageous, but it is true. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Also, rest is a KEY component to a child’s health and long term athletic development. It is certainly a no more outrageous program than believing a parent pays a specialized coach to improve their child enough to get a D1 scholarship. While they may be able to get a small edge, is it worth the time, money, and stress added to the parent’s and athlete’s life? In my opinion, the straight forward answer is no. Unless of course it’s really just a status and ego thing, but I digress.
If you send your child to a specialist you expect special results. When you take your child to a pediatrician and they recommend that you see a specialist in the area of your child’s discomfort, they are saying your child has a problem that requires specific, special treatment to get better. After seeing this specialist you expect special results that could not be attained by going to your regular physician. You feel a little tense that something is wrong with your child but you anticipate that going to the specialist will fix things. There is a latent, or in some cases blatant, need for immediate and substantial results.
The same applies to youth sports.
Here is the kicker: when you send your child to a specialist in youth sports, first of all, the coach may not be so special. They may have a coaching certificate and may have experience in a certain sport at a level that gives them some status and the experience that you seek, but they may not be able to teach to the specific needs, if there are any, of your child. They may have been told by many people how great they are and started to believe it. They may also have such status that other parents and children brag about the advantages of going to them without legitimate results to back up their claims. They may just want to name drop and gain status. None of these scenarios are good for the athlete, and isn’t that what the goal is? If it’s not, it certainly should be.
Sports are an art, plain and simple. Teaching those children how to play a sport or get better at a sport is also an art. It is not based solely on the pedigree of the teacher or the student. Your child may need rest just as much as training. They may need balance in their muscles. They may just need a break from what they are doing. They may not need a specialist at all, but a general anesthesia from the sport they are playing.
That last sentence sure felt good to write, let me tell you. You want to have your child feel good too.
So here’s what happens. A parent sends a child to a specialist and expects special results. The problem with this theory in youth sports is that there is nothing wrong with the child’s athletic performance to begin with so the visits are unnecessary. He or she just needs to have fun. They do not need the pressure associated with going to a specialist, pressure that originates from the knowledge that other kids went to this specialist and played better. How will they handle it if/when they do not perform at the next highest level of play?
Money was spent, time was spent, status was displayed, and there is now pressure to justify the expenditure. They could get better results, in my opinion, by playing another sport, going to the library and reading, or just resting and doing yoga, than they would from going to a specialist.
So I told these things to the coach, and said that he should tell the parent the facts and what it is he has learned as coach. If the parent still wants to send their child to a specialist, then it is their decision.
Now let me explain that this coach gets it. He just finished his season and the parents sent him a letter stating that the kids had more fun playing for him than they had playing for anyone else, in any other sport. This varsity level high school coach has been in constant contact with me about the book I am writing on youth sports and has implemented many of the recommendations I have given him. In the consulting service I provide, I have conferred with and advised many players, coaches, and families about what they are doing in youth sports, and how they are doing it. The message is always the same. What is in the best interest of the athlete’s long term health, both physically and mentally? If you stay on that path, and keep the adult’s needs out of the equation, you will find the answer to the question.
However, let me state that he had the ability and the answer to that question before hand as he had children who played youth sports growing up, and he questioned the results of their journey through youth sports. He wanted to get better, not for his own peace of mind, but for the long term best interests of the kids he was coaching. He was learning right along with the children, and that is the best coaching scenario.
In the end I told him he should tell the parent that he was very satisfied with their child’s level of play and participation on his team, which was true. I told him he should also tell the parent that the child would be better off playing another sport for fun, and to not go to the specialist. His goal for his team was to have fun, and the more fun they had the more they would improve. He is learning, as am I, and hopefully it transfers to his team, his work, and his life, so he can pay it forward to those around him. Because what we are doing is truly correct, it must be applicable to all walks and areas of a person’s life.
True change has to come from within and be intrinsic in nature. Children learn from internal realization, not extrinsic force.
I can tell my son to pick up his room if he wants to use the car and go out with his friends or girlfriend. He will reluctantly do it. However, if I can teach him the benefits for doing it without me asking, he will be better off and have learned a life lesson. He will have less frustration, more free time, be able to find things easier, all while getting his father off his back.
The same holds true with that parent. I wanted my friend to educate that parent, and explain the paradigm so that the parent could come to their own conclusion for the long term best interests of the child. Isn’t that truly what parents want for their children?
If you like what you read here, and would like to find out how you can integrate the Frozen Shorts way into your youth or high school sports experience, go to our website at www.frozenshorts.com/book-vj to find out how. You can book V.J. to speak to your group, do one on one consultations, or coach mentoring, at firstname.lastname@example.org