Ask any kid and they will tell you the only part of the game that’s not fun are the adults.
The youth sport landscape has changed. I have coached in one capacity or another for the last 20 years. I have vast amounts of education in not only the administration of sport, but in communication, program development, and am a pediatric developmental specialist. This means, not only do I know how to professionally speak with parents and athletes, but also know what skills are appropriate at what time for a developing child. I am employed full time designing programs, managing athletic careers, and treating over-use injuries. And I have watched youth sports turn a dark and discouraging direction in the last few years. What would have been considered “crazy” five years ago, is now employed as common practice. Have we lost our minds? Maybe……
Every parent at one time or another has heard that less than 2 tenths of a percent of youth athletes make it to the professional arena. But it seems most conversations on sidelines these days revolve around what future an athlete has in their respective sport. We have forgotten the much larger benefit of athletic participation, and that is myriad of lessons and experience it provides to those taking part. Life skills like; clear and concise communication, conflict resolution, planning, working with others, compromise, the list goes on and on. What I hear now is almost the opposite of all these things. It is very difficult as an adult, to sit in front of a teenager and explain why they must follow the prescribed directions and be held accountable to commitments when their coach is immune to any of the rules they have themselves set forth. Parents are often the source of complaints in the coaching community, but coaches tend to forget they have taken on the role of leadership and frankly, are poor leaders. Is it fair for a child to be benched and punished for being late to a practice when the coach consistently is 15 to 20 minutes late ending practice? Parents don’t get a free ride either. Why is it every other parent is living vicariously through their child but never the parent standing in front of you complaining? The common thread in all of these conflicts is, in the end, the only one losing, is the kid. I am sorry to say that I think both parents and coaches are equally using the kids. Yes I said using. This may be strong language but I feel it is time we start calling it like it is. Adults are, well adults. We need to start acting like it. Our kids are not commodities to be used to further our own self esteem. If you are a youth coach, have you ever asked yourself why you are coaching? It can’t be for the money. If you are a parent, have you asked why your kids are really playing? Can you honestly say your ego isn’t even slightly involved? This is where it quickly turns into a slippery slope. Before a kid knows it, they have been thrown into an environment where the expectations are too high and payoff far too low. They are fed a dream that is not realistic and often times they don’t even want. I unfortunately live in the county with the highest teen suicide risk in all of the United States. It is a daily occurrence for me to be on the front end of burn out and injury. Kids are expected to do so much more than we were at their age. They have fewer resources too. Moms and dads both typically work; they have more AP classes, more NHS programs, longer practices, less sleep, and too much information without help to assimilate it. Sadly, parents become aware their kids were swimming in stress after it’s too late.
There are a number of viewpoints on this subject, and any time spent on Google you will find a plethora of articles blaming one side or the other. It is not my goal to cast blame on either side, but to ask adults to start behaving like adults. Can we all just grow up? We have been charged with developing the leadership and citizenry of the next generation of this great country. Adults need to begin leading by example. That means, say what you will do, and then do it. Coaches, be sensitive to the fact that families are busier now more than ever. They need more than a 24 hour schedule. Parents, coaching is difficult, pays very little, and it’s hard to keep everyone happy all the time. It’s not a coach’s job to raise your child. You probably don’t have the next Jordan or Manning either. Sorry. I just would like the adults to realize that the kids are watching everything you do…..everything. Will they grow up and admire you and the time they spent with you? That goes for parents and coaches. Make the sacrifice and be the adult. Some decisions are difficult and painful, but necessary to build the character required to be an adult. In that same breath I would say that making things intentionally difficult is just insane. We don’t have to “create” environments that develop character; the world will do that without our help. Be there for them; help them navigate the confusing adolescent timeline. Teach them consistency and constancy. Teach them to be creative, innovative and patient. Allow them to learn that we all have different viewpoints, different roadmaps to the same solution. This is what makes us human. This is what sport is. Who you are is what you will teach.
To help, I quickly outlined the biggest complaints from both sides of the fence. If we can stop fighting each other and start being a community that raises well adjusted, hardworking, educated, disciplined, and joyful children, then our legacy will live on and on. That is the best “WIN” we could ever hope for.
Biggest Parent Complaints
Biggest Coach Complaints
All the practitioners at Performance Pediatrics and Human Performance and Rehabilitation are willing to help in any way. If you have questions, or would like to speak with a professional please feel free to call, we do the best we can to make time for parents and aim to educate whenever we can. We can be reached at:
402 West Garden of the God’s Road
Colorado Springs, CO 80907