”Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
“Over the back! Call it both ways! Somebody shoot the ball!” Is that you in the stands? There was a time when that was me. I stopped sitting with my husband; I stopped sitting with my friends. Afterward I felt tinges of remorse, but the belief that I fulfilled a role that might make the difference for my child and his team and even the officials kept the pressure on.
For all of my efforts, I can’t tell you one time where I positively influenced the outcome of the game. Why did I do it? Did I feel I owed it to the cause to put my limited basketball aptitude into the mix? Was I trying to advantage my child, or worse, demonstrate my basketball knowledge when at best I had only partial knowledge of the coaches’ strategy and game plan?
There was one 7th grade basketball game at my son’s all-boys prep school where the game was particlarly intense. I was coaching from the stands, as they say, when the halftime buzzer halted action. It was at that moment when our distinguished headmaster—who had been sitting on the row in front of me—stood and turned to speak: “Mrs. Santi, I had no idea that you liked basketball so much!” Looking back, that should have deterred me. But it was not until after the final buzzer that I got the message.
My son told me that sometime during that game, the referee turned to him and said, “I bet that one’s your mom in the stands.” He said he muttered yes, it was. And then my young athlete taught me a poignant lesson. “Mom, it doesn’t help when you do that.”
That got my attention. I imagine that no official, no coach, no administrator could have influenced me the way that my own child did. Because it was as if we both understood that beneath the bloviating was a sincere desire to advantage him, because I loved him. And it was because he felt empowered to confront the issue, I was able to hear it and receive it.
That illustrates the power of your partnership, and a positive and healthy relationship with your young athlete. Cultivate it, honor and protect it and the dividends can change the outcome for you both.
In all my years of being around young athletes, I have only known of one instance where a young athlete “enjoyed” her parent’s coaching and motivating from the stands. I believe utilizing that source to motivate performance rather than developing internal motivation shortens the shelf life on a sports experience. It creates a dependence that weakens rather than strengthens the player. How much better to strengthen her/him,empowering her to own the experience, good or bad, and carry that confidence and strong sense of self throughout life.
Immersed in youth sports as an athlete, a mom, a coach, and an athletic administrator, it's my deep desire to encourage parents as they encounter all the "fun challenges" of their children's youth sports journeys. By the way, all the members of my clan played sports in college and beyond, most likely in spite of my parenting strategies. However, I will admit to my own missteps, so that you won't have to learn the key to real youth sports success the hard way as I did. Every child can be successful!
View all posts by Betty Ann Santi