Nov 27, 2018
Ok, I admit it, I took the bait and bit when the above video hit the Twittersphere last week. But it's hard to resist when you've grown tired of the constant refrain that parents are always the issue in youth sport.
As parents, we've all stood next to peers who would try the patience of the Pope, and if we’re very honest, sometimes we've been "that" parent once or twice.
But those occasional lapses from what is the normal parental courtside presence, shouldn't result in what seems like constant vilification.
So let's get to the point of what's said here; "Kids inherently want to be good teammates...when they older and have a little success and the parents get involved then they become not so great teammates"
When the parents get involved, it all heads south....Yawn!
My pushback on this is a simple one. Have you ever asked whether it's the clubs culture that's fostering these negative parental behaviours before reaching for the oh-too-easy blame game response?
Parents just like players respond within the culture that the sport and/or club fosters.
Maybe the real issue is that parents are mirroring back to the club its culture and that's uncomfortable viewing?
If as a club you're promoting a WINNING culture - we're the team that brings home the trophies. The ELITE club, the best club in the town, the place that only recruits winners and creates winners. If you're the club that has pictures on your walls of past players and teams who are now on the pro circuit. Then guess what kind of players and parents you'll attract and the culture of expectation you'll create. An expectation that's fueled by the fact that I'm paying for my child to be the next superstar.
You are in control of the culture you create. So when you create it, don't start complaining that you don't like what you're seeing.
The club which we're attached to, Barcelona Tennis Academy is a good example of this. There are many academies in town, all with shining reputations, exceptional coaches and facilities but we chose BTA. It's a well-run academy that expects total commitment from the players and delivers excellent coaching, so no different on one level to the other academies in the area. But it's the culture, the heartbeat of the club that drew us there and a culture that demands as parents that we engage in the tennis journey through the "BTA-Way" (I've just coined that phrase).
Why not tune into Ep 3. with Raphael Maurer, Director at BTA and you'll hear the culture that attracted us. LINK
Parents do at times overstep the mark with their enthusiasm, however, I'd like to suggest this show's we're committed (yeh yeh I know we should be).
NB I'm also very aware of parents who don't step, but rather hurdle over the line and for that minority, significant intervention has to be taken.
I want to encourage clubs to embrace and harness this enthusiasm, invite parents to promote the culture that the club is seeking to nurture, instead of how it often can be perceived; "you pay, you be the taxi and you sit over there...well over there."
Let's be honest, as a parent, I have more invested in my child development than any coach – I’m dad, I bring 100% buy-in, it's involuntary it was a mind trick that happened when he was born and I haven't been able to shake it off.
My son's coach knows my enthusiasm and also my ignorance for the sport of tennis –so he draws me into the journey. He invites me to get involved – “this is what we’re working on” – “this is what the goal is.” And as he draws me in, clear and positive boundaries are created where I know what he brings, what I bring (and what I'm not to bring) and what Elijah needs to bring.
This past week Elijah's coach has been asking him to move off the baseline and to attack more. This meant that when we watched him play at the following weekend's tournament, the coach asked us to provide feedback from the match but only that aspect of his game. Positive forward attacking movement is this tournaments focus and if he also wins then great; happy days.
Now we've something to look for – we understand what our son is trying to implement – it removes confusion from what coach says to what courtside influences are saying - it removes win at all costs and becomes about supporting the growth mindset. It helps us see where he's being brave and implemented the new learning.
It's not rocket science!
Sports parents can sometimes be a hindrance and a right royal &*^!!$*&, but so can the child, so can the coach, so can the club and so can the federation…….it’s too nuanced and frankly boring to simply blame the one group called parents.
So come on clubs, create and affirm the culture you want to see and utilise our enthusiasm; because the blame culture doesn’t help.