Following are examples of statements I made to my sports-playing kids: "Keep your eye on the ball," "Try two hands on that catch," and "Run hard through the base."
These statements I did not say to my kids: "You should have headed that ball," "Why didn't you pass the soccer ball more?" and "Use your left foot more."
Why some statements and not the others? Easy, I never played soccer in my life, whereas I played baseball my whole life. My kids knew this and knew I did not have much credibility with giving soccer instruction, but they could not question my baseball advice. I left their soccer instruction up to their coaches.
The point is that parents who do not have an expertise should leave the instruction up to qualified coaches who have credibility in that sport. Of course, there is nothing wrong with giving inspirational comments to athletes, like, "Play hard," "Have fun," "I'm proud of you" and I enjoy watching you play."
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I believe all parents of athletes mean well for their kids and want the best for them. Often, however, many of them do not realize that their words and actions are causing a "disconnect" between them and their kids. The most obvious start to this disconnect is when kids don't feel their parents know the sport that well. Because of this, they do not want to hear or follow what their parent has to say when it comes to sports instruction. "Be quiet, Mom," "I'll do it my way, Dad," or "Don't come to my games anymore" or "You don't know what you're talking about" are statements frequently made by young athletes. Most of the time, these statements hurt their parents' feelings. All too often, though, the kids are making a good point.
For parents who do not possess the expertise in a particular sport, here are some suggestions for gaining some credibility so their kids might listen to them:
1. Gain greater understanding by studying the strategy and vernacular of the sport.
2. When making a suggestion, use the words "You might want to try this next time" instead of "Do this next time."
3. Along the same lines, saying "This works for (some professional), maybe you want to try it," gives your suggestion instant credibility.
4. Show pictures or videos of plays and point out what is shown instead of telling your athlete what to do.
5. Have a respected coach give your son or daughter a few tips after letting that coach know what your opinion of the child's play is. Often, kids will be willing to try suggestions from others besides their own parents.
6. Give your player an instructional book or video from the library when he or she is of an age to understand it. Often, knowledge provides confidence. Review it together if the child wants you to.
7. Trust and credibility can also be gained by waiting for the right moment to teach. Right after games when kids are most vulnerable is not a good time for suggestions. Saving the suggestions for a "calm" time is recommended.
8. Also, kids are much more willing to listen when they have hit a real low (bad performance) than when they are having success. Save suggestions for when they appear frustrated, but once again mention things at an opportune time when athlete does not feel judged.
9. Qualifying statements with words like "I always believe in you," "This setback is only temporary" or "I am just trying to help" is always a good thing.
10. Letting your child know that you expect effort and preparation and will be happy with any result is always important.