Dear Coach Bryant:
This is our official Thank You note to you. When our sophomore son became your client last year, the first question he asked was how he could get more playing time. Of course, as concerned parents we had gotten him a spot on the top-level soccer team we thought would push him to the next level. But there he was always on the bench. By the time he talked with you he was thinking he’d never get to play in college.
As you know, we followed your advice. We talked to the club directors and got him changed to a team that wasn’t as “prestigious,” but provided lots of playing time. Now that he’s really enjoying his sport (and playing better than ever), he’s drawing attention from several small colleges. He seems to have a good chance of getting recruited to a school where he can play for four years.
While we appreciate all of your help, we wanted to put in writing how just this one piece of your work with him has made all the difference.
Grateful in Greenville
I’m glad I could help. And I believe your experience will help others. Good parents want what is best for their children, including the best teams for their student athletes. The problem is that the most elite team is not always the best team for talented players. You were wise to recognize that reality; not all parents do. Instead, too many parents:
Expect too much too soon.
Every player develops at different rates. One athlete may take longer to advance to the next level of play than another. Sadly, parents often have a distorted image of their child’s ability, assuming their talented child simply needs to try harder or be more challenged. In actuality, their unrealistic expectations may be putting their child’s physical and/or mental health at risk.
Turn up the pressure.
When parents push their kids to play at a level where they can’t excel, kids lose confidence. Sitting on the bench isn’t fun. It isn’t fun to not be able to contribute to a team. Many sidelined athletes start disliking their sport and suffer burnout simply because they’re trying to compete at an unrealistic level.
Coach from the sidelines.
Parents should not coach their child, either from the sidelines or at home. There are only five words a parent should say before, during or after a practice/game: “I love watching you play.” That’s it. Any other comment could undermine the lessons the child needs to learn.
Parenting isn’t easy. One of the toughest parts of parenting athletes is guarding against internalizing a child’s success. Whether or not a child plays well – or for a prestigious team — is not a reflection on the parent. Wise parents let their child progress appropriately, allowing that child to learn the important values associated with playing a sport. Learning how to recognize an appropriate level of play also prepares athletes – and parents – to realistically pursue their right-fit college team.