Guest Post by Brie Isaacson
Time changes everything! Last week I took my son Wyatt (7) to baseball practice. I couldn't help but smile to see what a difference one year makes. It was just last season that a simple bug, airplane or blade of grass could distract an entire team. I stood in amazement as 11 seven and eight year olds played catch for the exact length of time the coach had planned. There was a total focus on the game of baseball and a basic understanding of the goal. This prompted me to wonder what role as a parent my husband and I should have in the different phases of our children's athletic development.
My husband Chad and I come from similar athletic backgrounds. We were both introduced to a variety of sports at an early age, given the freedom to try anything we wanted, and eventually settled into a sport that we were extremely passionate about. I went on to play division one college volleyball and Chad went on to play division one college baseball. We both put many hours into the sport to achieve our goals. Aside from hard work, we had the total and complete support and encouragement from our parents. A combination I think necessary to achieve a high level of goals.
Chad and I find ourselves in a unique situation as we are both former athletes, current high school coaches (Chad has been the varsity baseball coach at Downers Grove North High School for the past 13 years and I am starting my 10th season as the head volleyball coach at Naperville Central High School) and parents to four children involved in athletics. We want our children to be given the right tools for success (for as long as they want to be involved in athletics) while supporting them through their individual journeys. Each of our children are so different. Finding the right balance proves challenging, but realizing what our role is in their athletic journey will help them to have the best experience possible.
I believe that there are different roles parents have as their children progress through a sport. I have divided development into three categories below. While I have not personally had my own children go through all of the phases of athletics (due to their ages), with my own personal experiences and the consistent qualities I have seen from the families of athletes I have coached in my program, I believe there are certain things we can do to help and guide our children to ensure they are given a solid foundation for success.
Early Phase – Elementary School Aged Children
- Confidence – If the athlete doesn’t believe they can do something, they can't.
- Encouragement – Constantly, through the good times and the bad.
- Support – An overall acceptance regardless of a child’s performance.
- Patience – Studies show that it takes 21 days of doing something correctly for a child to create a new habit. Imagine how long it will take for the game to be played correctly.
- Good Sportsmanship – The players need it against ALL opponents and parents need it in the stands. At all levels, this will be tested.
- Don’t Quit – A child may never want to play the sport again but it is so important they finish their current commitment.
- Be Mom and Dad – Let the child decide how much they want to talk about the practice or game. Regardless of the length of the conversation, let them always know how proud you are of them.
- Respec t– For the coaches and officials/umpires.
Don’t miss the rest of A Parent’s Role in Raising Athletes in Today’s Youth Sports Culture where Coach Isaacson takes us through the middle and late phases of the parent’s role in this process.