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Solving the Youth Sports Blame Game
Photo by staff photographer Mike Stocker of South Florida Sun Sentinel.
iSport360 and TeamSnap have partnered to bring sports parents education, tools and even humor to improve their youth sports experience. Today it begins!
Ask anyone in your neighborhood who’s to blame for the problems in youth sports today and you’ll always hear the same answer: It’s the “crazy” parents.
You may hear this from a coach, you may hear it from the administrators and frequently you’ll hear it from a sports parent (of course every sports parent considers themselves “normal” compared to the other “crazy” parents).
Full disclosure: I am both a sports parent and a coach (and Founder of a youth sports software company) which gives me a bit of liberty to poke fun at both sides. When I first started coaching, I laughed when I heard coaches use the term “delusional sport parent” (which was actually coined by retired NBA star Keith Van Horn). We all know what he was referring to: The crazy parent, pacing the sidelines, yelling instructions to their kid (sometimes other kids too), freaking out about why their kid didn’t start the game or isn’t getting more playing time. I always hear witnesses to this behavior hypothesize that the “crazy” parent was a frustrated youth athlete, thinks their kid has scholarship potential or is simply just a bad person. Admittedly, I’ve encountered a few of these parents in my years of coaching.
But then I started to research the behavior of sports parents and realized: IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT. You see, most parents on the sidelines of their kids’ games are in “fight or flight mode”, meaning that their stress hormones are through the roof. It’s no wonder that typically normal, reasonable, friendly people lose their minds at their kids games. Psychologists will tell you it’s an involuntary physiological response where these parents cannot control their actions or words. I’ve been guilty of it myself. To put my hypothesis to the test: ask (or even dare) your team parents to spend one whole game sitting in their seat (literally not standing up at all), not saying a single word, not even cheering. For even the most lovely parents on your team, I guarantee the nervous energy and stress hormones in their body will win out and they will fail your test.
Another factor contributing to parent sideline behavior, and can’t be overlooked, is MONEY. There is a direct relationship between the amount of money parents pay and the results they expect. So while the parent of a recreation soccer player who paid $150 for the season might be content with whatever youth sports experience their kid has, the travel soccer parent spending $2,500 per year expects communication, feedback, player improvement and playing time. Truth is, for 95% of youth athletes, the focus should be on fun, fitness and a love for their sport regardless of how much the team costs.
Finally, parents’ state of mind on the sideline is impacted by a real lack of communication and player feedback from coach to parent. In some cases this is due to lack of time or the proper tools for coach to share feedback. But in some cases this is deliberate, with coaches trying to keep parents at bay. To those coaches I say: “Parents will either be part of your process, or part of your problem”. Parents need to be engaged in a positive way and receive some player feedback….that way parents won’t be on the sidelines guessing why their child didn’t start in today’s game, didn’t get more playing time, or didn’t play the position they wanted.
So the blame game will continue in youth sports, but I’m a firm believer that feedback and communication between coaches, parents and players will help develop better athletes and improve the youth sports experience for everyone. Ian Goldberg is the Founder and CEO of iSport360, a new TeamSnap partner. He is a thought leader who speaks and writes on the topic of bringing best practices from the classroom to the ballfields in order to solve many of the pain points in youth sports. He is a fervent believer in the power of ongoing feedback and how it can improve the youth sports experience for coaches, parents….and of course our kids. Kyle Massa is TeamSnap’s content manager and a frequent contributor to TeamSnap’s blog. When not sourcing and writing the best sports parenting articles, you can find him writing, reading and playing guitar for his cats. About TeamSnap Founded in 2009 and headquartered in Boulder, Colo., TeamSnap has taken the organization of youth, recreational and competitive sports into the 21st century. Almost 20 million coaches, administrators, players and parents use TeamSnap’s web and smartphone apps to sign up, schedule, communicate and coordinate everything for the team, the club and the season. TeamSnap makes organizing sports as simple as click, tap and go. For more information, please visit www.teamsnap.com. About iSport360 A new TeamSnap partner, iSport360 is an early stage SportsTech company that is helping youth sport coaches and parents share objective player feedback. The iSport360 mobile app provides coaches and parents with objective sports standards, fair player evaluation tools and a platform for ongoing feedback throughout the season and at tryout time. Its newsletter “The Chaotic World of Youth Sports” provides sports parents and coaches with education, resources and humor (since we are all guilty of taking our kids’ sports too seriously at times). For more information, please visit www.isport360.com.
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