Parental Pressure in Sports

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Chapter 3: Parental Pressure in Sports
There is a very narrow difference between the meaning of the words support and pressure within youth sports. There are many reasons why parents support their athlete off spring, here are a few:
1) the parent wants to support the child’s interest
2) the child will enjoy the sport more
3) the rest of the team will like them better
4) a way to defer college costs (scholarships)
5) to impress neighbors, friends, relatives, bosses, grandparents, sports writers, coaches and anybody else you can think of
6) the parent wasn’t a good athlete so the child’s sport becomes the parent’s chance to feel better about their selves
As we go down this list the reasons for support become less for the child and more for the parent. Also, please note that, around number 4 on the list, the descriptive word support should be changed to pressure. Parental pressure can drive an athlete out of a sport or if it is support, make them even better that they would otherwise have become. If the pressure takes the fun out of the sport; makes it seem like a job or leads to hate of practice it is too strong! Some kids will perform better than others and there will always be a best performer. If your child is not that best performer remember that neither are 99% of the rest of the kids in the sport. Here are some reasons why a certain child athlete excels:
A) they are bigger
B) started earlier
C) have more interest in the sport (more emotional investment)
D) are just more skilled or coordinated (sorry, we all can’t be great)
E) live in an area that is strongly committed to their sport (ice hockey and Quebec)
F) have better family support (moms, dads, brothers or sisters to have help with play time)
G) are in better health (rested and on a good diet)
H) have better coaching (or more GOOD coaching)
I) are on better teams ( teammates always have a share in a players success)
J) have better training equipment (batting cages, pitching machines)
When you start off with your child you will see that there is nothing you can do to control the first 5 of these points. The last 5 you can influence and are where you should put your efforts. This does not necessarily mean become your child’s coach. I’ve seen lots of baseball dads teach their daughters the wrong way to hit a softball and never know the difference and vice versa for a Softball Mom teaching her son to hit a baseball. Beginning pitchers are young emotionally. They don’t understand scholarships and competition. The only reason they are in the sport is for the fun of it, (that does not mean glory). Take that fun away and you will have a moody, under performing, unhappy athlete. Most of us want to see our child do better in life than we did. But if that means the parent is living vicariously a sports life through the child the pressures can be too high. You can not apply adult expectations on a child’s ability. Be sure your advice to the child is simple, clear, easy to understand, honest, fair and sportsmen like and above all CORRECT. Yelling from the stands “just throw strikes” isn’t very helpful: after all what do you think they are trying to do? In fact any cheering from the stands should be either complimentary or positive and NEVER personal. A game situation is not the place to instruct a beginning pitcher on their mechanics. It isn’t a place to shout “They can’t hit” It isn’t a place to belittle an umpire. It is a place to watch your child develop and understand more about not only the sport but how people should behave. If you keep your reason for support numbers “1” or “2” and your method of support from “F” through “J” the pressure you will create will be really support and very beneficial.

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