Raising An Athlete- Freya Katre

In this blog, we will look at understanding and managing a parent’s roles and relationships with regard to their child’s sport.

Being a parent can be extremely challenging. In addition, being a parent of an athlete often adds to the efforts and responsibilities involved. An athlete’s parent, has to look into the child’s sport and the associated demands it places on one’s routine. There is a tendency for sport to take on a dominant role, and as a result the other needs of the child mentioned above, may take a back seat. It is thus, essential to remember that sport is only one aspect of a child’s life and should not in any sense be all consuming for either the athlete or the parent. To assist healthy functioning of both the athlete and the parent, this next section explores some key relationships that may be managed by the parent in the best possible way.

The player coach relationship: The player-coach relationship is a critical one, and a parent can have a pronounced effect on the relationship. For instance, disagreement with regard to what the coach has said to your child would result in your child carrying that perspective into practice the following day. This would directly or indirectly impact the manner in which the child is able to incorporate information imparted by the coach in future sessions as well. Thus, technical or tactical discussions in the home environment would interfere with the instructional process in the sport environment. In addition, while parents might negatively impact the player-coach relationship, they might also on the contrary have a positive impact on it as well. Parents may assist the athlete in dealing with the thoughts, feelings or behaviours attached to events that occur on the playing field. Experiences may be put down as being a positive learning experience or an obstacle that may be crossed, as opposed them being negative experiences

The parent-coach relationship: As a parent, it is natural to be concerned about your child’s welfare and performance. However, it is vital to understand that an athlete can have only one coach. It is thus, important to leave all technical and tactical decisions to the coach. Discussions with the coach should not be an impulsive response to a competition or practice session. Instead, it would be best to set up a meeting with the coach to review things at a time convenient for both the coach and the parent. This would ensure that the discussion is not an emotional reaction to an event that may have occurred but, enables a holistic review of the athletes development. Talking to athletes between practice sessions, matches or competitions should be avoided as consciously or unconsciously leads to added pressure while playing even though the primary intention is to help your child.

The parent-player relationship:There is sometimes a tendency for parents to live through their child’s athletic achievements and efforts. In the process of doing so, while parents do have their child’s best interests in mind, they might be putting undue pressure or have unrealistic expectations for their child. Enjoyment of sport is crucial for athletes of all ages and the primary role for parents should be to look at enhancing their child’s sport enjoyment. Hence, post any practice or competition session, the focus of conversation with your child should be surrounding what they did well or what they enjoyed most. Even after a seemingly poor performance, there is always something that the child may have done well or learnt from the session. It is essential to bring that to light rather than push that to the background. Furthermore, discussions surrounding your child’s sport should be kept at minimum at all times. Athletes often spend a large amount of time playing the sport, discussing the sport with friends or even thinking about it themselves. By further talking about the sport in the home environment as well, would lead the athlete to feel drained and exhausted. Instead, conversations should be made around things outside of sport to develop and tap into other interests that the child may have. This would enable them to switch off from their sport and switch back on during times when high levels of attention or focus are required.

Having gained an understanding of some of the main roles and relationships that an athlete’s parent may have to deal with, keep a further look out for the publication of our next blog article. We will be taking you through specific guidelines and tips to ensure healthy parent-athlete communication.

References:  1. Delmar: Handbook For Parents of Athletes
2. The parent-coach plan: parental responsibilities

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