The Best Father’s Day Gift Ever: Our Sons/Daughters Ability & Comfort In Speaking Up.
It's our duty to remember that our kids have burdens we don't realize, and a "mileage capacity" in what they can absorb. We need to help with that.
Happy Father’s Day!
Hope your day is full of appreciation and gratitude.
This time gives us the opportunity to reflect on the role Dads (and Moms) play in youth sport.
The support requirements by parents in today’s youth athlete environment are heavy. Many answer these with unbridled enthusiasm. Some too much so.
I have been guilty of too much enthusiasm into my son’s athletic pursuits, especially as his interests grew in the teenage years. It is easy to get swept up in it.
As a coach/teacher the lines can easily get blurred between the of being a supportive and appreciative Dad and “the Controlling Dad”.
As parents, we want what is best of our kids, yes?
When we see things not going the way our kids had hoped, it has become common practice for Dads’ to jump in and “control the environment”.
That is the trap.
Engineering the situation is not necessarily helping the enjoyment or benefits of the activity for our kids.
At a young age, Jamie’s Mom and I encouraged trying different things, and he did. Lots of different sports, arts and music.
In the sporting environment, I found it very difficult to distance myself from letting the activity unfold. Organizations that ran the events were short on coaches, and those that volunteered where well meaning but often not prepared. The experience in many needed help.
I often stepped in to help. Volleyball, soccer, golf, hockey, baseball, basketball…you name it!
What I realized after a few years, is that it is not easy for our sons/daughters to have a parent as a coach. This required some consult with our guy to make sure that he was alright with Dad being in that role. He was, but we started to create some guidelines so I would not turn into “Controlling Dad”.
Has he got older and I was not the coach, it became important that he feel comfortable in approaching coaches and ask questions when something needed clarifying.
That initiative part was big, especially as he got older and at times felt passed by on playing time. It was always appreciated by the coaches, and it helped their relationship every time.
“Talk to the coach. Bring up your concerns. Give him your perspective. Ask him how you can get more playing time (if that was the issue)”. This Dad would not step in on that front. He needed to speak up.
The reality is, coaches have a lot to be responsible for, more than ever. We covered in November 2021.
Having our children learn the power of speaking up is one of the most powerful and enduring skills we can encourage.
When there are 23 kids on a team, there is no way a coach is thinking all the time about each child’s perspective or experience. The good coaches might but my experience is that it is rare and very hard to find.
The power of speaking up on any issue becomes critical as the pressures mount around their participation.
Unfortunately, those pressures start too young. The pressure to win, the pressure to make the team, to score, to be the best, to not disappoint, to be accepted by peers. They start young and they mount over time, especially to those who continue past that big drop off age of 13-14 years old.
It’s a lot.
Taking the initiative in speaking up is critical. So are “check ins” by coaches, parents and peers. Everyone is not ok. The “check in” requires awareness, initiative and is a skill to be developed.
Ensuring our athletes won’t be ridiculed or dismissed when they initiate conversation becomes priority 1.
Recently I had the good fortune of attending the International Hockey Performance Summit, a virtual conference focused on best practices around the development of hockey athletes. One of our sessions focused on the challenges, the traps and the issues in how young hockey athletes are brought along. Around the hot stove were very skilled and experienced strength and conditioning coaches. It was surprising how many felt skilled athletes arrive at the professional level unprepared for the rigors of their new profession. Much of the conversation was around physical preparation, but some of it focused on mental side as well.
The discussion included the coach of a current hall of fame hockey player. Great discussion on developing tools to help youth coaches and parents.
We forget the physical and mental pressures these kids face, and we are seeing an alarming rate of damage as a result. One of the coaches of goaltenders spoke of having only so many repetitions in their hips and knees, so they have to be mindful of that as they pile on more and more showcases and game like situations.
This does not just apply to hockey. There is so much relevance here to overhead athletes in baseball for example who can very quickly exceed their “mileage capacity” in their throwing arm.
Hip replacements in hockey goaltenders. Ligament replacement in young pitchers’ arms. It’s nuts.
What about their “mileage capacity” on dealing with pressure? On finding calm and joy in playing? These is the issue that we can not see.
In my son’s case, as he works to enjoy his college baseball days, he spends time refining his ability to stay calm, in the moment and enjoy. For example, he has a unique ritual before every pitch when he is batting of taking a deep breath and clearing his mind so he can focus on seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand to the bat. It has become a gateway to more fun and better performance.
“Appreciative Dad” is happy with that. As a coach, I am impressed.
Finding inner calm through rituals that are often high-pressure situations which make sure the “fun cycle” continues. At 21 years old, what a great skill to develop.
Very grateful for the coaching and expertise of Doug Mckeen in this area. More on Coach Doug’s work here:
Let’s use this Father’s Day as a reminder to put ourselves in our young people’s shoes. They carry more of a burden than we think.
As parents, we don’t always realize the generational gap. Today’s kids have different things going on than we did. Different pressures. They are not to be dismissed if we want them healthy and happy.
Sport is supposed to fun, even at the highest levels. It is supposed to be an outlet, a learning experience and a tool for development.
On Fathers’ Day in 2020, we featured Coach Guy Brown. There is a link to that article below. His son Jaxon, a former D1 football athlete and national champion produced a film recently that reminds us of this precious perspective.
As a Dad the greatest gift is that our kids don’t stay silent and suffer when they are not feeling right.
Hope you find the below 15 minute film as powerful a reminder on this as I did:
Here is our article with Coach Guy Brown:
Last Father’s Day we published Letters to Dad on Father’s Day. I thought I would share again.