9 Tips on How Not to Fail as a Sports Parent

27972841_10216014603781718_3302237797915717473_n

Seniors!

Sports are so great for our kids. They keep our kids active, socializing, learning new skills and life lessons. Unfortunately, some parents take the fun out of sports by not following the list of nine tips  I read in Psychology Today by  Frank L. Smoll, Ph.D. In fact, if you’re tired of driving to practice and games or meets, try to do the opposite of the nine tips and your kids will be back on the couch in no time!

In an article posted a few years ago in Psychology Today called “Moms and Dads; How to help your son or daughter get the most out of sports” he has a list of nine tips that make a lot of sense:

“There’s no set formula, but the guidelines below are designed to increase the chances of producing favorable results.

ONE

Set a good example of an active person

TWO

Let kids participate in determining when they are ready for sports.

THREE

Give priority to your child’s own interests.

FOUR

Don’t use sports as a babysitter.

FIVE

Emphasize the process of enjoyment rather than the product of winning.

SIX

Emphasize striving to improve skills rather than comparing oneself with others.

SEVEN

Establish and maintain open lines of communication.

EIGHT

Evaluate your child’s coach.

NINE

Don’t live your dreams through your children.”

Of course, he goes into more detail on each point, but the basic list is helpful. For example, if you’re not moving and don’t value exercise like “number one” says, then your kids aren’t going to think it’s of much value to exercise either.

In “number eight on the list,” evaluating the coach, Smoll asks the following questions:

“Parents should talk to the coach, regularly go to games, and occasionally attend a practice. Additionally, they should ask themselves the following questions:

Are the young athletes treated with respect?

Are they being taught?

Are they given a chance to perform?

Are they made to feel what they’re doing is a fun activity?

If not, it may be necessary to find another team for your child.”

 The National Alliance for Youth Sports, did a stury and found that around 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by the age of 13 because “it’s just not fun anymore.” We can be one of the major reasons why the fun disappears. If you’re more into than your kids, then chances are they’ll be part of that 70 percent.

16266184_10212368415229283_398566466906218282_n

In it for the long haul.

What can you do to become a successful sport parent?

Advertisements

We can teach our kids to be good sports

 

IMG_7710

Open Water Nats–being good sports after a close 5k race.

Nobody likes a sore loser and I think it’s even worse to have a gloating winner. In an article on CNN called “If I Were a Parent: Teaching kids to be good sports” by Kelly Wallace, the number one way to teach good sportsmanship is through role modeling.

“Losing is not easy for many kids, and being a graceful winner can in some ways be even harder, so the question becomes: what can parents do to teach their children good sportsmanship?

“Rule No. 1 seems simple enough but is too often overlooked by helicopter parents who are living vicariously through their children. Parents should model the behavior they want to see in their kids, said John O’Sullivan, author of “Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids.”

“Kids are not very good at listening, but they are fantastic at imitating,” said O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project, which says it seeks to “put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’ “

“And so if you want your kids to display good sportsmanship, you should. If you don’t want your kids to yell at referees, you shouldn’t yell at referees.”

The article goes on to talk about the flip side, lousy winners:

“And as for teaching your child how to win and win gracefully, remind them how it felt when they were on the losing side. “The biggest thing that I always say to my team when you’re winning by a lot is, ‘you know what, you’ve been on the other side of it where you’ve lost by a lot. Do you remember how that felt? So don’t do anything that’s going to make your opponent feel any worse right now,’ ” O’Sullivan said.

12768251_10209127311323711_1087820356060339429_o

Cheering on a teammate.

What do we mean when we talk about being a good sport? It’s easy to point out kids and parents who aren’t. They are mean, rude, usually loud and they do not care about how they affect those around them. Parents who are bad sports are causing fights these days with coaches and landing in jail! With social media catching every incident of bad parent behavior, it seems like it’s happening more frequently, but I haven’t seen any stats to know if that true or not.

Being a good sport is simple. It’s treating others with respect. It’s not talking badly about others behind their backs or throwing your equipment down. I remember when my brother was on the golf team in high school, there was a player that broke their golf clubs more than once when they lost. Staying composed and not getting too caught up in the moment helps us be better role models. In our kids’ sports, the process is just as important–or more so–than winning.

I think another important element in teaching good sportsmanship, besides being good role models, is to compliment our kids when you see them being a good sport. In swimming after races, you often see swimmers reaching over lane lines to hug the winner or you see the winner reaching out to competitors to shake hands. When you see your child being a good sport, point it out and say you’re proud of them. If you see other kids showing good sportsmanship, be sure to tell your child how much you admire them for their actions.

How do you teach your children good sportsmanship?

IMG_9963

My daughter showing good sportsmanship.

 

Why I’m a fan of Sam Darnold–and his parents

images-4

I wrote this a while ago when Sam Darnold was a quarterback with USC. I liked his low key, humble way about him. Tonight I’m watching his debut as starting QB for the Jets. Yes, I’m still a fan.

I’m so impressed with the parents of Sam Darnold, who is rumored to be the first pick tonight in the NFL draft. They were parents who let their phenom athletically-gifted kid, be just that. A kid. Tonight we’ll find out if Sam is the first pick, or not. We can learn so much from Sam’s parents regardless of the level of talent our kids have, or what their passions are. I wrote this about USC’s quarterback eight months ago:

My husband asked me to read a story from the Bleacher Report about USC Quarterback Sam Darnold. I put him off for a day because frankly, I wasn’t that interested. I finally read it to appease him and found Sam’s story to be fascinating—mainly because of the parenting style of Mike and Chris Darnold.

From childhood through high school, Sam played basketball, football, and baseball. I think he played volleyball, too. His parents let him try and decide what sports he participated in. They didn’t make him specialize or get him private lessons or coaches. In fact, Sam believes his success in football is from playing all different sports and learning a variety of skills. In a refreshing story written by Jeff Perlman, you find out about a dying breed of parents—ones who believe in fun and no pressure. Parents who let their child lead his own life.

“USC’s star quarterback and his parents do not live by the LaVar Ball theory of the universe. They let a multisport supernova grow up into his own man. And that’s why this 20-year-old might be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft.”

Yet the story of Sam Darnold isn’t the story of the modern quarterback, loud and sparkly and created to own the internet’s 24-hour hype machine. Nope, it’s the story of a young man on the verge of superstardom because, not long ago, he was allowed to diversify.

He was allowed to be a kid.

The Darnolds’ Capistrano Beach household is in the heart of south Orange County, where there are youth sports leagues atop leagues atop leagues, and private coaches atop private coaches atop private coaches.

In Orange County, it’s not uncommon for a nine-year-old pitcher to throw sliders and curveballs nine or 10 months of the year—with a father behind the backstop holding a radar gun. It’s not uncommon for a quarterback to play Pop Warner, then a season of flag and then spend the summer under the watchful eye of a $200-an-hour passing guru.

This was not going to happen to Sam.

“My parents,” the quarterback says, “wouldn’t have allowed it.”

On paper, this might come as a surprise. One would be hard-pressed to find a more sports-centric family than the Darnolds. Mike (Sam’s dad) was an offensive lineman at the University of Redlands, Chris (Sam’s mom) a volleyball player at Long Beach City College. Sam’s older sister Franki starred in volleyball at the University of Rhode Island and three of his cousins—Allie, Michele and A.J.—also participated in collegiate volleyball. Sam’s late grandfather, Dick Hammer, played basketball at USC and was on the 1954 team that went to the Final Four. He was also a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic men’s volleyball team.

Put simply, organized athletics are a big deal in the Darnold world and have been for decades.

“But,” says Chris, “they’re not everything. We’ve always tried to keep things in perspective. Yes, our children have always loved playing sports. But around here, in this part of California, it too often becomes live and die. That’s a big mistake in my opinion. It has to be fun.”

“One day you open your eyes and it’s, ‘Holy cow, your son is in this position,’” Mike says. “I mean, it’s crazy, right? Crazy, crazy, crazy—one in a million.”

He pauses. Though Chris is acknowledged by family members as the emotional one, the father has been showing his soft side of late. He insists he never cared whether his children played sports or an instrument or worked a job—as long as they were involved and happy and tried different things. But to have a son as USC’s starting quarterback; to have a son who is a Heisman Trophy front-runner; to have a son who is humble and decent and respectful?

“Say what you want,” Mike says. “Sam’s not flashy, he’s not a yeller, he’s not a trophy collector, a bragger. But I feel like we worked hard to raise our kids the right way. And it’s paid off.”

I believe the Darnolds have lessons for many sports parents, myself included. Of course, they had an exceptionally athletic son who could have been recruited in basketball, baseball or football. But more than that, they raised a humble, balanced kid. They are proud of him as a person, not just as a star athlete. Their attitude and parenting style helped develop Sam into the man he is and will become.

I hope you take the time to read the entire Bleacher Report article about Sam Darnold and his parents. There’s also another great article in the Los Angles Times called “As expectations swell, USC’s Sam Darnold finds comfort at home near the beach” by Zach Helfand.

I’m excited to watch him play football this year. Here’s a YouTube of his 2016 highlights.

Click here to watch a recent interview with Sam Darnold by CBS’s Allie LaForce.

What do you think about kids specializing in one sport at an early age?

 

hi-res-fb3e59d78f170b4b75e261bc85a791bd_crop_north

photo of Sam Darnold from the Bleacher Report

 

Are you a “wimpy” parent?

three

I was fascinated with the sound of “wimpy parenting.” I wondered, did I fit the bill? I looked through the list of bullet points and no, for once I didn’t do all of these things. Therefore I’m not a wimp! That’s the good news.

The bad news is I did plenty of them. I had no issue with saying “No!” and set plenty of limits for my kids, but I never liked to see them fail. I often protected them from their choices and tried to fix their problems.

In the article “Dr. Randy Cale’s Terrific Parenting: Wimpy parenting makes for wimpy kids” from The Saratogian Lifestyle, here are his traits that make a parent a wimp:

Many parents today seem to have graduate degrees in wimpy parenting. What are the characteristics of the wimpy parent?

• Can’t seem to set limits for children

• Protect them from the consequences of poor choices

• Respond to almost every request or demand from child

• Try to fix every problem their child encounters

• Constant work harder at their child’s life…than the child does

• Cringe at the thought of their son or daughter being upset at them

• Incessantly negotiate to keep child happy

• Becomes personal chauffeur on demand

• Let’s child decide what good for them (i.e., food, video games, phone time, apps, etc.)

• Changes plans in an instant when child requests something

•  Can hardly stand the thought of just saying ‘no’ to their child

How many on the list have you done? I did four of them a lot, so a little less than half. I was so good at saying no to my kids that when we’d go to Disneyland and we were corraled into a gift shop after “It’s a Small World,” my kids wouldn’t ask for a toy! I had them trained to not ask by saying “no” so often. What dreary little lives they led, right? Hardly, but I didn’t want to be the dad who bought his daughter an ice cream cone while we were waiting for our table at a restaurant with friends. I also didn’t want to be the mom who caves and buys their kids something to make them stop a temper tantrum in a store. No, I was the one who let them have a hissy fit and tried to ignore it.

Here’s what the consequences are to being a wimpy parent according to Cale:

SO, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? I GO EASY ON MY KIDS

It’s not a big deal. If you have space for your children in your home when they are 35, and have a trust fund set up for them to live on. In other words, they should be just fine, if you are prepared to care for them forever. They will not be happy or satisfied, but they should be okay.

WHY SO BLEAK A FUTURE FOR THESE CHILDREN OF WIMPY PARENTS?

Everything about wimpy parentings puts children on the wrong path to excel or find happiness in life. It creates a set of expectations that is not in line with reality. The wimpy parent is teaching their child that they can get everything that they want, with virtually no effort. In what world is this true?

These children grow up expecting everything while giving very little. This ‘entitled’ attitude not only fails in relationships, it fails in the work place. What happens is that these young adults end up ‘entitled’ to a room in the basement, and ‘entitled’ to dad’s paycheck.

They also grow up expecting few limits on their behaviors or actions. Having felt few consequences for their choices, they believe they can get by with just about anything. In fact, often they do not believe that consequences apply to them!

Who is Cale? According to The Saratogian Lifestyle: Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park-based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. His website, http://www.TerrificParenting.com, offers free parenting guidance and an email newsletter. Readers can learn more by reviewing past articles found on the websites of The Saratogian, The Record and The Community News. Submit questions to DrRandyCale@gmail.com.

13458580_10210124717898252_3301505966351515302_o

One of my favorite pics taken in Laguna. Look at the love–pinches and squeezes, too.

What are your thoughts about wimpy parents? Are you one and how have you changed?

What are the worst sports parenting mistakes?

kat medals

I was listening to a webinar from “Growing Champions for Life” sports parenting expert David Benzel and he went through a list of nine of the worst sports parenting mistakes. It was during a talk about whether to push our kids in sports–or not.

Who is David Benzel? He’s a former sports parent himself, whose kids were athletic, loved their sports and made it to the pros—as he says—in spite of him. He felt like kids were coached in sports, but felt he was sorely lacking in knowledge about being a sports parent. He said that he and his wife changed throughout the years and now he coaches sports parents in many different sports including gymnasts, tennis, baseball and swimming.

I discovered Benzel on USA Swimming and have read his book from Chump to Champ, plus I have several copies of his little booklet “5 Powerful Strategies for Sport Parent Success” lying around the house in case I need a refresher.

I too changed through the years as I learned from my swim mom mistakes. I continued to grow as a parent, and looking back there are many things I’d never dream of doing today that I thought were perfectly normal years ago.

The list of 9 awful things sports parents do that Benzel presented was from the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. 

Here’s the list:

ONE
Exhibit an outcome orientation.

TWO
Are critical, negative and overbearing.

THREE
Apply pressure to win or perform.

FOUR
Make sport too serious.

FIVE
Are over-involved and controlling.

SIX
Compare child to other athletes.

SEVEN
Distract child during competitions.

EIGHT
Restrict player’s social life.

NINE
Too much sports talk.

Between me and my hubby, I think we’ve got this list covered. We’ve been guilty of every single one on the list.482023_4501677623832_667860262_n

How many on this list have you done? What are things you’ve done in the past as a parent that you wouldn’t do now?

How to sift through parenting advice

kiddos

Superpowers!

With all the parenting advice out there, what’s the best way to approach it? According to one dad, Neil MacFarlane, whose article appeared in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, he says: “Advice on parenting advice — don’t listen to any of it!”

I’m one to talk, right? I write weekly advice articles for SwimSwam.com and I love to tell parents how to do a better job. My thoughts come mostly from my own mistakes–or my husband’s. Once in awhile, I see parents making the same mistakes and I think if only they knew what I know. So I share it.

However, in public, I wouldn’t think of walking up to someone and tell them what they should do with their kids. It has happened to me a few times. A relative or a complete stranger would tell me to my face what I was doing wrong or what was wrong with my children. You have to love these folks, right? They may have no idea what is going on in your life, if your child missed their nap, is sick, or that sometimes it’s wise to pick your battles.

I did find the “don’t follow the advice” pretty funny and well written. Here’s an excerpt:

When people heard I traded in my joysticks and pen a parenting column these days, the first thing a lot of them asked was, “So, do you have any advice for me as a parent?”

As it happens, I do: don’t listen to anyone’s advice about parenting.

I know there are people who fancy themselves as parenting experts, many of whom are respected and have forged entire careers on the subject.

I’m sure there are wonderful articles adjacent to this very column that fit this profile; I wish their authors nothing but success and happiness.

But the fact is, any parent who thinks they are an expert on any child that is not their own is delirious.

Sure, we can all agree on some broad stroke parenting tips: Feed your kids. Occasionally bathe them. Make them brush their teeth. Send them to school. Don’t let them play with kerosene. And so on.

But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty stuff like lifestyle choices, discipline methods and ways to engage and encourage your kids, it baffles me that some stranger thinks they’ve got my kids all figured out. Hell, I barely have my own kids figured out and I live with these maniacs.

For example, I know some parents who’ve adopted a strict “no screen time” policy with their young children. No iPads, no video games, no TV. Nada.

Like communism, this sounds good on paper, but I think this is madness, personally.

You’re basically setting your kids up to be like Brendan Fraser when he emerges from that fallout shelter in Blast From the Past the moment they have to go to school and realize they’ve been living in the dark ages their whole life. They’ll basically want to spend all their free time at their friends’ places and you’ll wonder where you went wrong.

But that’s just me and how I feel. I’d never chew out a parent who thought that was the best course of action for their kids. Maybe their kids have attention issues I don’t know about. Perhaps they have found ways outside of technology to stimulate and engage with their kids that work for them. It’s not my place to judge.

robkatrockWhat do you think about people who stop you in public to judge you or your kids?

How do you encourage kids to be champions?

16266184_10212368415229283_398566466906218282_n

Junior Olympics third-place relay team.

The third time is the charm. The book Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Carol. S. Dweck, Ph.D. Stanford University, was recommended to me three times. First, by a long-time coach, Tim Hill. Second, I heard about it in a webinar by David Benzel from Growing Champions for Life. Third, my son’s employer gave him the book on his first day at work and he said I had to read it. So, I finally did. I highly recommend that you read it, too.

Mindset is packed full of studies, research and entertaining stories about students, parents, teachers—and well-known musicians, coaches and athletes. In one chapter called, “Sports: The Mindset of a Champion,” I learned about the growth mindsets of tremendous athletes such as Michael Jordan and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. In another chapter called “Parents, Teachers and Coaches: Where do Mindsets Come From?” it described the differences in mindsets of two college basketball coaches—John Wooden and Bob Knight.

Dweck explained fixed versus growth mindsets: “In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.

“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch. And nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the world of sports. You can just watch people stretch and grow.”

Although people are usually a mixture of both mindsets, since mindsets are beliefs, they can be changed. We should encourage our kids to have growth mindsets because they will thrive in the long run by learning how to work harder and smarter. They won’t be afraid of a challenge and they will persevere.

If we constantly tell our kids how smart or how athletically gifted they are, we are giving them a fixed mindset. That means they will believe in their innate talent, and that hard work will label them as NOT talented. When things get harder, they will not rise to the challenge. They will lose interest or go back to finding something easier for them, so they can still be recognized as being a “genius” or “gifted athlete.”

What we should do is recognize our kids’ hard work. We need to tie in the process they go through to achievement. If we notice our children are working hard, but not achieving the success they desire, maybe they aren’t using the right strategies. We can help them try a new method.

The best teachers and coaches are ones with growth mindsets. They haven’t predetermined a child’s success. They treat all their students and athletes as important and they figure out a way to help each individual grow and thrive.

What is the mindset of a champion?

“It goes by different names, but it’s the same thing. It’s what makes you practice, and it’s what allows you to dig down and pull it out when you most need it,” Dweck wrote.

IMG_5008

Sectionals a few years later.

In what areas do you have a fixed or growth mindset?