I’m very supportive of parents of young athletes because I am both a parent and a coach. I know what they go through. They spend more time with their athlete than the coach does, and yet they often feel undervalued by both the coach and the athlete. They also get blamed for the many behavioral sins of their child.
Parents have very dramatic ways of getting around this—they stay home or watch covertly from behind pillars. Neither is necessary or appropriate, so this blog post is aimed at parents who wish to overcome any parental stigma, but more importantly, be of huge benefit to their child’s game.
Not just a Spectator
One of my athletes has traveled widely in the U.S. to competitions. For one competition he traveled with his dad, another with an aunt or an uncle. On two specific occasions he traveled with his coach. Over the course of several tournaments a pattern developed. Whenever he traveled with his family he struggled and performed poorly. When he traveled with his coach, he won–big.
Think about the differences. The family trip to the competition was mostly about sightseeing and expectations, along with the usual family squabbles and grandma’s troubles and the cost of the sport and the price of gas and the business call on the cell phone. On the other hand, the “team” trip with the coach was mostly about competition goals, past successes, passion for the sport, the anticipation of winning and a bright future.
When you compare the two experiences, it is easy to see that the trip with the coach better prepares the athlete mentally for the competition. It wires his mental circuitry for success. How could any parent compete with that? The answer is: don’t even try. You most likely do not have the technical skills or experiences that relate to becoming a skills coach, but you do have the maturity and life experiences that relate to becoming an Emotional Coach.
Become your Child’s Emotional Coach
The way to become an Emotional Coach is learn to stay (as one of my coaches says) in your “happy place”. Athletes refer to this place as the Zone. It involves a simple rule that says, “If I stay in the Zone my child will.” And the easiest way to get there is to think about your best sporting experience and notice how good it feels. That is your Zone and you need to stay there, no matter what.
How many times have you seen your child in a meltdown? And how many times have you felt bad for them? Ask yourself the question, “Who is leading whom?” If you want to be an Emotional Coach, you simply can no longer empathize with your child on the field, court or rink. Close your eyes and think “happy place”–the impact will be huge.
After stating this rule in a workshop, two moms approached me and one asked, “You mean we can’t just be a spectator?”
I told them that they could be spectators but they also had a choice. They could be part of the problem (a meltdown) or could remain emotionally in the Zone for both the good and the bad parts of competition (it is simply leadership). It is very empowering to be helping your child perform well. Being an Emotional Coach is a huge challenge, but the parents who have tried it rave about the positive effect it has had on their children.
I’m going to challenge you as parents to draw a line in the sand and make YOUR meltdown and YOUR anxiety a thing of the past. At your child’s next competition:
- See how much laughter you can create in the car on the way to the event.
- See how tall you can get your son or daughter to walk by walking tall yourself.
- Maintain your happy place at all times even as other parents fall apart around you.
If I stay in the Zone my child/athlete will
You have a powerful tool to help your child–yourself in the Zone. Use it to help them prepare for practices. Use it to help them in competitions. When you do, you hand your young athlete over to their coach in a powerful state of mind and the coach will love you for it. Hey, here’s a thought, why not use it all the time to help your children in all of their activities? It sure beats hiding behind a pillar.
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