Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bullying From the Sidelines

I just got back from a 2 hours seminar called "2nd Goal Parents" put on by the Positive Coaching Alliance. It made me realize how out of control recreational sports have become. The instructor pointed out that the bad behavior we see in professional sports on a regular basis is making its way into kids soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, football, etc. He also pointed out that professional sports are all about the money and are therefore "entertainment".

Now, I'm sure that all parents, when they are off the field and rational, can agree that this outrageous behavior has no place in our kids recreational sports. I was shocked to learn that 70% of children by age 13 drop out of all sports. The reason they drop out is the constant criticism and pressure put on them by their sideline parents. That would be us. Ouch! That hurts, but we are all guilty of making comments on the sidelines that discourage rather than encourage our kids.

A few weeks ago, my daughter's competitive soccer team was in the second day of a two day tournament. Toward the second half of the game, we parents were wondering what the heck our girls were doing. Each and every parent began coaching his or her kid. At one point, I wondered how the girls were hearing their coach at all over all the parents yelling from the sidelines. One dad kept yelling out angrily, "We're watching!"

Well, after the game we parents, myself included, didn't have anything positive to say. Our girls just didn't seem to want the win bad enough. Back at home, I asked my daughter why the girls were batting the ball away instead of taking it down field. She said that they were having difficulty with running the ball the day before, so the coach told them do bat it to the closest teammate. Double ouch! That strategy got the team into the Championship Game.

Back to the dad who yelled, "We're watching!" Yesterday during practice, after criticizing the trainer for not controlling the girls' energy and focus, this dad said that he really wished he could get in there and help. Then, he hit the nail on the head when he said that he didn't want to "interfere". Interfering is exactly what we all do when we start coaching from the sidelines. Our kids can't really hear us most of the time. I know, I've asked. Maybe it is just as well. Tonight for the first time, I equated this inappropriate sideline behavior as bullying.

From now on I am going to zip my lip at the games and let the coach do the coaching. I appreciate him giving his time to coach my daughter and her team. It is a huge commitment and daunting task to train thirteen 12 year old girls who still do cartwheels during practice. I will do a better job of finding positive things to say to encourage and support my daughter and her teammates.

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