If your child is involved in organized sports, you know the important role a coach plays. Whether your child is involved in a school-sponsored sport or an independent program, she’ll be influenced by how the coach coaches. You are wise to be curious about how the relationship will affect your child.
5 Goals for Coaches
Let’s take a moment to consider what it means to be a coach. The Oklahoma Coaches Association lists five goals.
- Assist the athlete in finding the range of his/her capacity.
- Assist the athlete to consider, accept, and have a positive approach to the struggle which is life.
- Assist the athlete to understand the best effort in all endeavors is the most admirable mark of life.
- Assist the athlete in his/her approach to the basic virtues in life.
- Assist the athlete in considering the fundamental laws of nature, especially those pertaining to conduct, and physical and mental health.
The Positive Coaching Alliance believes sports experience provides opportunities for children to learn important lessons about determination, commitment, hard work, teamwork, and empathy, while increasing self-confidence and positive character traits. However, even coaches with the best intentions do not always assist children in the fulfillment of these goals.
In Oklahoma we are quite passionate about our sports. You need look no further than the newspaper or television to see the extensive coverage given to athletics, players, and coaches—all with emphasis on winning. This fact is not a problem in and of itself. Yet when winning receives a great deal of focus, it has the potential to increase stress, thereby bringing out the best and worst in people, including coaches. Balancing the above-mentioned goals with winning makes coaching a difficult task. It’s even harder if coaches are untrained and unfamiliar with principles of effective motivation and age-appropriate teaching strategies.
What’s a Concerned Parent to Do?
Should you begin a crusade to remove all coaches who seem to be overly focused on winning or launch a program to educate coaches to effective teaching and motivation for specific age groups? Education is perhaps the best answer, but it’s a long-term goal which will require a slow-moving cultural shift. In the short term, there are a few things you can do to increase the likelihood that your child will have a valuable experience and gain admirable traits—many which will be used in other life relationships.
- Get involved. Volunteer to assist the team by providing food or helping with travel, pep-rallies, or other needs.
- Get to know the coaches. Have a gathering honoring coaches for their time and efforts. Develop a relationship with the coaches and other parents.
- Listen. Pay attention to your child’s experience with their coaches.
- Support your child. Assist your child in developing strategies for managing less than ideal situations.
Clinton A. Lewis, PsyD, works as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the Counseling and Consulting Offices of Paul Tobin, PhD, and Ann Benjamin, MEd. His special areas of interest include therapy with adolescents, adults, and families and sport consultation with coaches and athletes.