You are your child's most important coach
A coach is defined simply as "someone who teaches and trains an athlete or performer." There's really no better description for sports parenting, is there? Your job is to teach and train your child - to prepare him - to perform well in the important areas of life. There will probably be a number of coaches your child has throughout the course of his career - some good and maybe some not so good - but the influence you have in teaching, training, and preparing will outweigh all the others. The fact is, you are your child's most important coach. I want to challenge you to accept that responsibility today, and to see clearly all that comes with it.
What are those responsibilities, exactly, that come with being a coach? Well, sometimes teaching, training, and preparing means building and developing the positive. As a coach, you've got to recognize what exactly it is your athlete needs in order to reach his full potential, and then get to work on cultivating those skills. If those qualities exist already, then it's your job as a coach to highlight and strengthen them. You are responsible for growing what's good.
So what are some of those qualities you should be focused on growing and developing? In both The LENS book and here in the weekly newsletter, we talk regularly about the talents possessed by the champion athlete:
Of course, the champion athlete has worked to develop their athletic skill. But they've also developed these critically important mental skills, too. These are qualities that separate the champion from everyone else - their passion, their effort, their toughness, their desire to get better, their selflessness, their courage, their attitude. As a coach, you've got to see that these are things your athlete has to have in order to become his very best. If your child is strong in any of these areas already, then it's your job to highlight and strengthen them. You've got to celebrate and reinforce their existence. If there are areas here you see are lacking or deficient, you've also got to uncover ways to creatively teach, train, and develop those as well.
That may sound like a lot of work, but that's only part of your responsibility. See, as a coach, you're not only responsible for building and developing what's good; you're also responsible for recognizing and removing what's not. You're in charge of identifying the detrimental qualities your athlete needs to change, diminish, or remove altogether. If something negative has developed in your child - something you know can and will keep them from their very best - then it's your job as coach to find the most productive way to address it. Please hear this today: you must address it. It's important for you to see that as a coach, you are doing one of two things with your child's negative, unproductive, or unhealthy behavior: you're either addressing it or you're allowing it. There is no in-between. If you're ignoring, overlooking, or justifying it, then you're silently encouraging its existence. I heard one coach say, "if you're permitting it, then you're promoting it."
As a coach, you are doing one of two things with your child's negative, unproductive, or unhealthy behavior: you're either addressing it or you're allowing it.
So what are some of these negative, unhealthy, or unproductive behaviors? Well, just as the list above (the Talents of a Champion) defined those who become their very best, those who fall short of their full potential have a tendency to share some characteristics as well. They are apathetic and disinterested. They're lazy and entitled. They're soft, selfish, and negative. As a coach, you've got to see that these are the things that can keep your child from becoming his best. Then, more importantly, you've got to formulate the most effective way to address them.
In reality, even though it's not as much fun, confronting the negative is just as much a part of coaching as cultivating the positive. A great coach is the one who's figured out how to do it productively. I want to challenge you today, if you're serious about doing your best as a sports parent, to accept this challenge - not only to address the negative, but to address it productively. You've got to be thoughtful, aware, and intentional. If not, your commitment to confronting these challenges may do more harm than good. That your athlete's negative, unproductive, or unhealthy behavior needs addressed isn't up for debate. But how it needs addressed? That determination is what requires your thought, your awareness, and your intentionality. It requires your very best as a coach.
Because your child and every one of his experiences are unique, your "how" will be unique, too. There is no cookie-cutter formula for addressing his negative, unproductive, or unhealthy behavior. There may be times where your coaching needs to be quiet, calm, and comforting. Other times, it may need more passion or intensity. Just remember that the champion coach - just like the champion sports parent - is thoughtful, aware, and intentional. You won't be your best making decisions when you're unaware, reactionary, and emotional. In fact, coaching is like just about any other leadership responsibility in that unaware, reactionary, emotional decisions are usually the enemy of productivity. Be smart enough to do what you do on purpose, so your coaching can be helpful and productive.
I hope you'll accept today that as a sports parent, you are your child's most important coach. The work you're doing - both in cultivating the positive and in addressing the negative - isn't easy, but it's important. The more you do it, and the more thoughtful, aware, and intentional you are, the more productive it'll become. Not only that, but the more you coach your child, the more you help him develop his ability to get coached. In doing so, you're cultivating one of the talents from that list that defines the champion athlete. The ability to get coached is so important to an athlete's success. The more you highlight and strengthen it, the better your child will be.
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