April 22, 2011
Sports Coaching & Parental Pressure Part II by Paul Miceli
Sport provides a unique arena for parents to act this way because the differences between success and failure are so easy to define. Their child will be, momentarily, either a winner or a loser. For some parents, this becomes a responsibility in itself and the pressure of such a situation often boils over and finds itself directed at the child. Before long, the child finds that they are unable to perform to the best of their abilities or, even worse, they actually begin to dislike the sporting experience because the pressure becomes so monumental for them.
The sports coach has a responsibility to shield the child from this type of pressure even if dealing with the issue ultimately costs him the services of the individual concerned. Research shows that children, especially those that make up the younger age groups in the five to eight year bracket, have the ability to assess their own performances without basing them on the ultimate result of a sporting event. Younger children will judge their performance in terms of effort, contribution and, most importantly, how much fun they had. It is only when the implications of winning or losing a sporting event are introduced that the pressures begin and more often than not, this information is filtered to the child through the parent instead of the sports coach.
The coach has a series of tools at his disposal to deal with the pressures that are placed on young children in a sporting environment and the best of these tools is simple communication. When a child joins a sports club or begins to play in a school environment, the coach will have the ideal opportunity to relieve parental pressure before it has an opportunity to materialize. A written code of conduct can be issued to parents and this should include detailed information about the effects of parental pressure. This particular tool gives a sports coach the chance to tell parents what he expects from them in terms of attitude and behavior and because those sentiments are immediately out in the open, a coach has a reference point that can be used as an example if he needs to talk to the parents about any subsequent indications of parental pressure.
A coach may also use the code of conduct to state his preferred forms of action if pressure becomes excessive and parents will be left in no doubt about what is expected from them. A sense of enjoyment, freedom and fair play should always be encouraged, particularly at a younger age when the most important role a coach has to play is developing a love of the game itself.
Check back next week for the continuation of this great coaching article.