Athletes and Coaches Only at Practice

1. A parent’s role in their child’s sports endeavour is to be supportive and encouraging. When parents watch practices – it leads to comments outside of this role. We find ourselves saying things such as “You should pay better attention to the coach when they are talking” or “You kept missing serves, you need to be more focused” or “I sure wish you would try harder.” When we watch practices, we open the door to talking about a part of their sports endeavour we should not be talking about.

2. Sometimes it’s better not to know. It’s better not to know if our child isn’t paying attention, or if our child is struggling with the speed of play and giving the ball away, or if our child is not working as hard as we know they can. It’s better not to know because when we do know these things, the stress creeps in. What our child needs to receive from us is our support, not our stress. They need to know that we believe in their ability to be their best. When our child feels our stress, they hear “You should have done better” instead of “I believe in your ability to be your best.”

3. When we watch practices, there is a clear shift in the dynamic between our child and their team and coach. After all, as parents, we are the most authoritative figure in our child’s life. Naturally, they will feel different when we are watching practices. We limit our child’s ability to be a teammate when we insert ourselves into their team dynamic, even if it is from the bleachers or from a distance.

4. Being a teammate is an honour and a responsibility. Our children must learn to play for their teammates and their coach, not for us. When we are in attendance, they are naturally playing for us – to show off to us, to win our approval. We need to allow our children to concentrate not on winning our approval, rather on winning the approval of their teammates and coaches through their personal level of commitment (see 5, below).

5. Our child’s commitment to their team needs to be a decision they make, it can’t be anything we try to facilitate. If we are involved in this decision, our children will eventually burn out or lose interest. If we want to support our children as they develop an identity as an athlete and team member, we must allow their commitment to their team to come from within them. When we are too involved, we hamper this development.

6. Parents should have better things to do than watching practice. If we put our children front and center in our lives, we are putting too much pressure on them. We are quietly telling them that our happiness, in some way, depends on their performance. That’s too much pressure. Our happiness should depend on us – on the walk or run we could take, on the book we could read, on the other things we could accomplish in the hour and a half of their training.