Update to The Role of a Swimming Parent


I’ll still be putting out a new blog post in the next few days, but I really need to provide an update on my last blog.
During the past week I’ve talked to many people about the role of a parent in a child’s sporting life. This includes parents of swimming, as well as hockey, football, soccer and many others. It is uncanny at how a consistent pattern emerged in these conversations.
It starts off with the parent agreeing with my views completely (almost always using “completely”). And then the parent goes on to say, “All that I tell them is… ,” describing in detail how they do the exact opposite. There’s no cognitive dissonance here. They still think they are agreeing with me.
I’ve heard them describe how they tell their kids they have to try harder, pay more attention, or even that they have to be better than everybody else. One even said they tell them if they don’t work harder, they shouldn’t continue in the sport. And all this with the air of agreeing with me.
This isn’t working. So, here’s my new approach. I got this link from Mike Thompson of the Oakville Aquatic Club.
Every parent should read this incredible article by Steve Henson in The Post Game, “What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent — And What Makes a Great One.” An informal survey of hundreds of college athletes over 3 decades was conducted by two coaches (Bruce E Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching LLC), with two brilliant conclusions coming out.
1) The worst memory of these athletes from playing sports is the ride home from games with their parents. Even the most well intentioned parents critique performance, provide suggestions as to how to do better, or even criticize their team mates or coaches.They hated that.
Their advice: Don’t talk about their performance unless they raise the topic.
A fascinating aspect of the survey is that kids love having their grandparents at the games. Grandparents are far more likely to just enjoy watching them participate and give them a hug later. No critiques.
2) This is the big point. The statement made by parents that made them feel the best about themselves and their sport. Just 6 words.
“I love to watch you play.”
That’s it. A completely non-judgmental statement that gives complete support and makes them feel good about themselves.
Those two coaches are brilliant. When it comes to your kids’ sports, act like a grandparent, and use those 6 words.
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