Dos and Don'ts for Effective Parenting in Organized Sports
Hey parents. Winning or losing. The big “it” in any sport. Have you ever considered whether you or your child wants “it” more? Wonder why I ask? Because guess what? If it’s you, that’s a recipe for disaster. Consider this - studies show players motivated solely by winning and losing likely will burn out before they are out of their teens.
To wit. In 1978 I saw the tennis prodigy Andrea Jaeger at an 18 and under tournament at Northwestern University outside of Chicago. She was 13 at the time. Her father, who was also her coach, was screaming at her throughout the match. There was nothing encouraging in those constant screams. Over the course of her junior player career Jaeger won 13 national titles. She became, in 1980, at 15, the youngest seeded player and quarterfinalist ever at Wimbledon. Later that year she became the youngest finalist at the U.S. Open. At 16 she was ranked number 2 in the world. In 1983, the night before her Wimbledon final against Martina Navratilova, she had a heated argument with her father over practicing and he locked her out of their apartment. The next day, emotionally fatigued, she lost the final. Years later she admitted she lost the match on purpose. By 1984, at 19, off a major shoulder injury and unable to reconcile the narrow-minded focus of being a top tennis player, not to mention the emotional scars from her over-bearing father, she was done.
That’s just one example. For sure there are more. So, what’s the key to effective parenting?
Your child deserves more than being motivated by a single-minded focus on winning or losing. From the legendary coach John Wooden: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
Carol Dweck, one of the world's leading researchers in the field of motivation is Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research focuses on understanding why people succeed and how success is fostered. Her “growth mindset” theory believes that most basic abilities are developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience essential for great accomplishment.
For sure, the outcome of any endeavor cannot be controlled. Effort, and a commitment to growth via a process, is controllable. They’re the true building blocks for success in any athlete.
So, instead of screaming at your child to win every point, praise their effort. Encourage them to do their best. Shout your love of watching them play. Make it fun. Stress that process growth.
Here’s a stat for you. There are about 11,000 golfers playing collegiately. Each year 1 player wins an individual national tile. Maybe another 6 win a team title. The odds of winning are microscopic. But competing and enjoying the competition is exorbitantly attainable. And the skills developed can be used for a lifetime.
Think Andrea Jaeger would disagree?