Positive Role Modelling From Coaches & Parents. It's Never Been More Important Than Right Now.
These uncertain times require inspiration for our young athletes. Parents and Coaches, we may be the only real life modelling of good behavior our youth might see.
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There is certainly no blueprint to coaching and/or parenting during a pandemic. Knowing how to manage the events as they continue to unfold continues to be challenging. If you have your ear to the ground in youth sports, the stories are coming fast and furious.
Young athletes (also coaches and families) have had their lives turned around with the shutdown and alteration of sports schedules and seasons.
There is the elite hockey or basketball or football or baseball player who is on the on the cusp of getting drafted into the pros or heading to training camp or about to sign their first contract. All snuffed out, delayed or radically changed.
There is the young student athlete heading off to join to college only to have plans postponed or taken off the table. Scholastic sports at the collegiate level may indeed be altered forever. Just this week, announcements started to trickle out about segments of the USA cancelling collegiate sports in 2021. Tragic.
There are the older teenage athletes preparing for important “recruiting years”.
There is the young teenage athlete who has had a love and passion of sport altered dramatically or even removed by not having the opportunity to play.
There is the pre-teen who does not have the same outlet as in previous years. Their fun time on the pitch, court, field or ice altered dramatically. They don’t have the trips, they don’t see the sports friends. The experiences they so enjoyed taken away.
For winter sports, the holiday season is a time of tournaments and trips. For fall sports, championships would have just concluded or be happening now. Spring and summer sports would be full preparation mode, often with their teams.
Despite these changes, there has been some silver lining. Those nursing injuries have lots of time to recover. Those with reduced schedule give more time to focus on studies and perhaps develop other hobbies and interests.
On the coaching and parenting side, the guidance we provide has never been more important. Never been more needed, and never been more different than in the past.
As coaches, most of us were positively influenced by sports and physical activity in our youth. We can relate to how challenging growing up was and the role sports provided as an outlet. Not sure about you, but I don’t know where I would be if I did not have that outlet in my teenage years. It helped my development, and in short, made me a better person.
As parents, whether we were involved in sports or not, we can relate to the challenges of the teenage years.
One of the things the pandemic has brought most of us is a different relationship with time. Less events and reduced schedule equals more time.
If we take some of that time and think about our formative years, it does not take long to remember the challenges and how we dealt with them. We all had them. That perspective becomes critical in trying to help our young people navigate this crazy time, and the unique set of challenges it brings.
Role modelling is the act of setting a good example.
A role model is someone who inspires others to imitate his or her good behavior. The relationship our culture has with role models has changed over the years has it not?
When we look at role model culture, it certainly feels like it has a new level of importance in today’s day and age. “Do as I do” can have more impact that “do as I say”. This is a stark contrast to years gone by when “do as I say” culture ruled. Years ago, authority figures were not questioned. We would not dare question our parents or our coaches. We did as we were told or face the consequences. Today’s generation are different.
Different in many ways and for many reasons. The Physical Movement explored how Gen Z learn in a recent article, which attempts to understand their perspective and characteristics. Because Gen Z is so connected to technology, where else will they see examples of living a good life on a day to day basis, if not for parents, coaches, and teachers? Someone who sets a good example. If that example is not at home, then where is it? At school? With a sports team?
The role of coaches, as if they needed more on their plate, now takes on behavior modelling as an important responsibility.
If we break it down from a coaching perspective, we ask our athletes for respect and commitment. Respect for themselves, others, and the game they play. Commitment to their team and to being the best they can.
It becomes very hard to ask for these things when coaches do not exhibit these characteristics themselves.
Coaches who do not show the same commitment to their health, anger management, outlook and other characteristics that they ask of their athletes creates a conflicting perspective.
Coaches who do not show the same respect for others that they ask of their team, also creates a conflict.
Parents, who’s role modeling impact may run deeper than a coach, it becomes especially critical during a time when our young athletes need inspiration.
For coaches and parents, role modelling is also showing imperfection. Many young people feel pressure to be perfect. How coaches and parents handle making mistakes becomes part of the role modelling that can make a massive impact.
I refer to the great coach Lee Taft in our article of June 7, who talked about guiding the learning path.
“We can teach that skill and have the athlete go through it and let them go. Let them develop. Guide the learning path and do not take it over. Watch how they absorb that new skill. Don’t interfere with the learning process, only guide it. This biggest problem I see is taking something holistic and natural and break it into parts too soon”. Coach Lee Taft.
This applies directly not only to learning a skill, but the developmental path as well.
My wife observed years ago as we escorted our son through his sports journey around the standards observed on the playing field. The standards were not as high as should be, and she was right. Coaches were talking down to athletes, intimidating some and accepting the same in return. These low standards had snuck into our practices and no one said a word.
During the pandemic of 2020, and now rolling into 2021, I would make the point that we need to maintain high standards for our young people.
Coaches, parents, that means modelling behavior that guides the developmental pattern.
Before we talk about dealing with change of plans, how do we deal with changing plans?
Before we talk about maintaining a positive outlook, how do we maintain a positive outlook?
Before we talk about doing something productive with our time, how do we so something productive with our time?
Before we talk about good time and priority management, how are we doing in that regard?
Before we talk about prioritizing our physical and mental health, how have we prioritized them?
Despite what many might say, our younger generation are super smart. They may have characteristics that are different than our generation, but do not underestimate that they are very, very smart. They pick up on how we are handling ourselves. How we talk to people. How we control our anger.
While no one has the answers as to when life will get back to normal, I would venture that we are hopeful that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But with that end of tunnel will come a new landscape unlike the one prior to the pandemic.
With this new landscape, how we handle this challenge is being carefully evaluated by you know who. Those young people that are facing tremendous challenges are also looking for inspiration.
I know we are up for the job.