Parents Corner !
It's all about the kids!
- Educate yourself about the game and pass on the knowledge. Go to games with your kid. You don't need to spend a lot of dough by going to a pro game, just seek out the Junior College or high school games. Analyze, dissect, pay attention, ask questions, discuss, share, grow together.
- Encourage the kids.
- Help them understand this is a game of failure and help them persevere through the inevitable rough times. The best players, more often than not, are the ones who fail the best. They don't let negative results or mistakes get to them. They have a strong belief in themselves that isn't tied into their results and have the ability to focus on the moment. If you get a hit 3 out of 10 times, you're doing well. That's failing 7 times!
- Understand that during the game the kids are trying to focus, play, and flow and need to take those couple of hours to perfect this most important part of the game. Encourage them but try not to instruct during the game. You've got all week to improve their mechanics. For those brief couple hours a week, leave em alone to play and find the flow of the game without mechanical thoughts.
- Along the same lines, understand full well the difference between practice and game time!
"During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out 1,700 times and walked 1,800 times. That means I played 7 years without ever hitting the ball."
~ Mickey Mantle
Till next time, have fun, play hard, and keep your eye on the ball...
They’re cool, calm and collected, never pace and accept every umpire’s decision as is. Yeah right. There’s no such banana in the fruit bowl of life – Baseball Moms are loud and excited, they can’t sit still when their son is pitching or up to bat and umpires are not necessarily always their best friends. They come up with creative interpretations of the rules and even more interesting versions of what actually happened on the field (“What d’you mean he tagged him, he was safe by a mile…!”) and they make grown man cringe when they cheer them on with their favorite childhood nicknames (“Let’s go sweetpea!”). But we love them regardless and they’re some of the best fans out there.
In Austria the sub-culture of Baseball Moms or generally Little League parents is not as obvious as in the United States but we’re getting there and it’s great to see the enthusiasm of those loyal parents.
So today was Mother’s Day and I got to witness many Baseball moms in action at Ducksfield. Probably having forfeit their well deserved Mother’s Day breakfast in order to prepare the kids for a morning game – making snacks, packing lunch, finding different pieces of uniforms all over the house, driving to the field, cheering on the kids, solving minor crisis etc. The usual Baseball mom stuff.
But now it’s time to say thank you to all the Baseball moms out there – I hope you all get spoiled rotten by your kids for being there for them 24/7/365, for supporting little Baseball stars and making Little League play possible at all. Thank you and keep up the good work!
As a sports parent, this is what you don't want to become. This is what to avoid:
• Overemphasizing sports at the expense of sportsmanship: The best athletes keep their emotions in check and perform at an even keel, win or lose. Parents demonstrative in showing displeasure during a contest are sending the wrong message. Encouragement is crucial -- especially when things aren’t going well on the field.
• Having different goals than your child: Brown and Miller suggest jotting down a list of what you want for your child during their sport season. Your son or daughter can do the same. Vastly different lists are a red flag. Kids generally want to have fun, enjoy time with their friends, improve their skills and win. Parents who write down “getting a scholarship” or “making the All-Star team” probably need to adjust their goals. “Athletes say their parents believe their role on the team is larger than what the athlete knows it to be,” Miller says.
• Treating your child differently after a loss than a win: Almost all parents love their children the same regardless of the outcome of a game. Yet often their behavior conveys something else. "Many young athletes indicate that conversations with their parents after a game somehow make them feel as if their value as a person was tied to playing time or winning,” Brown says.
• Undermining the coach: Young athletes need a single instructional voice during games. That voice has to be the coach. Kids who listen to their parents yelling instruction from the stands or even glancing at their parents for approval from the field are distracted and can't perform at a peak level. Second-guessing the coach on the ride home is just as insidious.
• Living your own athletic dream through your child: A sure sign is the parent taking credit when the child has done well. “We worked on that shot for weeks in the driveway,” or “You did it just like I showed you” Another symptom is when the outcome of a game means more to a parent than to the child. If you as a parent are still depressed by a loss when the child is already off playing with friends, remind yourself that it’s not your career and you have zero control over the outcome.
Five Signs of an Ideal Sports Parent
Let’s hear it for the parents who do it right. In many respects, Brown and Miller say, it’s easier to be an ideal sports parent than a nightmare. “It takes less effort,” Miller says. “Sit back and enjoy.” Here’s what to do:
• Cheer everybody on the team, not just your child: Parents should attend as many games as possible and be supportive, yet allow young athletes to find their own solutions. Don’t feel the need to come to their rescue at every crisis. Continue to make positive comments even when the team is struggling.
• Model appropriate behavior: Contrary to the old saying, children do as you do, not as you say. When a parent projects poise, control and confidence, the young athlete is likely to do the same. And when a parent doesn’t dwell on a tough loss, the young athlete will be enormously appreciative.
• Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach: The mental and physical treatment of your child is absolutely appropriate. So is seeking advice on ways to help your child improve. And if you are concerned about your child’s behavior in the team setting, bring that up with the coach. Taboo topics: Playing time, team strategy, and discussing team members other than your child.
• Know your role: Everyone at a game is either a player, a coach, an official or a spectator. “It’s wise to choose only one of those roles at a time,” Brown says. “Some adults have the false impression that by being in a crowd, they become anonymous. People behaving poorly cannot hide.” Here’s a clue: If your child seems embarrassed by you, clean up your act.
• Be a good listener and a great encourager: When your child is ready to talk about a game or has a question about the sport, be all ears. Then provide answers while being mindful of avoiding becoming a nightmare sports parent. Above all, be positive. Be your child's biggest fan. "Good athletes learn better when they seek their own answers," Brown says.
And, of course, don’t be sparing with those magic words: "I love watching you play."
How Young Athletes Can Deal With Failure
Failure is very much a part of sports. There are plenty of opportunities for players to make mistakes during competition--and these mistakes can feel devastating.
Kids often beat themselves up after making mistakes, which doesn't help their confidence. In fact, it's the wrong way to handle mistakes. It hurts their confidence and enjoyment of sports.
Failure Starts Before the Play
Here's what often happens: Athletes young and old often have high expectations about their performance. They tell themselves they're going to win the game for the team, make no mistakes, hit the most runs, throw the most touchdowns, etc.
When they don't meet these expectations, they are hard on themselves, which hurts both their confidence and performance.
Without confidence, it's tough for kids to play harder when they're having a bad day. If they don't feel confident, it's much more difficult to bounce back from a bad play.
Even the Pros Feel It
During the 2009 World Series, Chase Utley of the Phillies and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees talked about dealing with failure. Through game five of the Series, Teixeira was hitting 2 for 19.
"When you're in a rhythm during the season, you're going to fail seven out of 10 times," said Teixeira. "When you're not in a rhythm, you're going to fail a lot more."
Teixeira understood the importance of accepting failure and moving on. That's what young athletes need to do, too. Even on good days, they'll make mistakes; they can't be perfect at the plate or in the field or on the court.
Most young athletes don't think this way. They often analyze their mistakes and beat themselves up.
Learning to Love Risks
But they need to learn how to view failure in a different light. They need to learn how to make mistakes okay in their minds.
That way, they can stay composed and play in the present. If they can do this, they'll feel more comfortable taking risks--risks that are the key to growing and learning.
We like to tell skaters that if they don't fall down, they'll never learn anything. If they fall down, it means they're pushing themselves and growing.
"The doer makes mistakes," says Bruce Kracke, a sports dad and certified trainer for the Positive Coaching Alliance. "The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win. These are kids who make things happen."
They make things happen because they take risks. They bounce back and move on after mistakes.
Learning From Failure
Young players should view mistakes as an opportunity to figure out how to improve their performance instead of being frustrated. For example, if kids had trouble hitting fastballs in their last game, they should consider devoting their next practice to practicing them.
Kracke feels that sports parents and coaches can take a number of steps to ensure their sports kids feel like it's okay to make mistakes.
One of the Positive Coaching Alliance's rituals is to use the "flushing motion." When a child makes a mistake and looks at the coach or parent, the adult should make a flushing motion, which means: "flush away the mistake, move on."
Parents and coaches should not remove kids from games after mistakes, or punish them, says Kracke. Instead, keep them in the game, support them, and tell them it's okay.
"This tells kids they aren't going to get reamed in front of their peers or yanked from the game. They can get aggressive and try something new," he says. "The important thing is to get ready for the next play."
Tips for Parents and Coaches
As youth sports psychology experts, we often work very closely with parents and coaches when we provide mental coaching for young athletes. Parents and coaches who are knowledgeable about "mental game" challenges and strategies are better equipped to instill confidence in their young athletes.
If you are a sports parent or coach, you'll want to learn how to improve your athletes' mental game so they can get the most out of their skills in competition.
Here's just one example of how coaches and parents can improve athletes' mental toughness using proven mental game strategies.
Sports Psychology Tip No.1: Lower Expectations
You might not know that coaches' and parents' high expectations for their kids can cause kids to feel pressured. Parents and coaches sometimes impose their own expectations on their kids, with the intended goal of boosting kids' confidence. But often, this has the opposite effect.
When working with softball and baseball parents, for example, we help parents and athletes understand that strict expectations--parents' demands about how their kids should perform--actually hurt kids' performance.
Athletes who have high levels of self-confidence end up in the winner's circle. You want your athletes to feel fully confident at game time. That means you need to keep your expectations in check. Parents' and coaches' overly high expectations can cause athletes to focus too much on the results. This often makes them feel frustrated, especially when they are not performing up to their (and your) standards.
Sports Psychology Tip No.2: Watch What You Say
Here's how it works: Parents and coaches, in their sincere efforts to be supportive, often say things that kids interpret as expectations. For example, a softball parent, with good intentions, might say to an athlete, "You should go 4-for-4 at the plate against this pitcher today."
At first, you might think this sounds supportive. It's what parents should say to improve athletes' confidence, right? Wrong.
Many athletes do not interpret such well-meaning input this way. In fact, we have found that young players interpret such statements in surprising ways.
Some athletes might think they need to be perfect at the plate and get a hit every time at-bat, and if they don't they are letting down the parent or the coach.
You might think this sounds like a stretch, but this is how the minds of the young athletes work. Kids internalize or adopt your high expectations, then become overly concerned or worried about getting a hit every time at-bat out of the fear of letting others down.
Sports Psychology Tip No.3: Emphasize Process Over Results
Be careful about the expectations you communicate to your young athletes. We suggest that you instead focus on more manageable goals or objectives that help kids focus on the process.
For example, you might ask softball players to see the ball early when at-bat or let go of mistakes quickly. Your players can accomplish these important objectives more often than getting a hit every time at bat.
If you as coaches or parents want to help your young athletes achieve their full potential in sports and reap the many benefits, be sure to acquaint yourself with these and many other mental game strategies to improve success.
Kids - What They Want
All kids are different and participate in sports for a variety of reasons. For my oldest son, participation is mainly a social event. He loves being with his friends and having a good time. He's athletic so he's beginning to realize the attention he gets when he has a good game, at bat, or play in the field. My younger son at this point just loves to play. He is in it for the enjoyment he gets while playing. He enjoys hanging out with the kids, but that seems secondary to playing the game.
What about other kids, why do they play? The reasons vary by age and personality. Obviously the high school player is going to have different reasons for playing then a 10 year old. Unfortunately parents and coaches often don't recognize what the kids want to get out of the sport. I believe there are some common themes that apply at all levels:
Kids don't want to play if it's not fun. Again, we must consider the personality and age of the player. A high school pitcher may think it's fun to practice as hard as he can in order to be successful. The competition is what's fun. For most younger kids the competition isn't as important. They are more interested in the action and excitement of playing. Winning and losing most often means a lot more to the coach and parents than it does to the kids.
Variety and Organization
Many people say that organized sports are boring to the kids. We've organized the fun out. Kids spend too much time standing around and not enough time playing. I disagree that organized sports are boring. It would be nice to still be living in an age when your child could head off to the local sandlot and meet his buddies for a game of baseball. The reality is that parents won't allow it without supervision. It's really the lack of organization within the scheduled practices that cause the problem. When one kid is hitting and the rest of the team is in the field shagging balls, you have taken the fun out of the sport.
Kids want variety and action. They want to develop different skills and they want to run around and have fun. A practice that keeps them moving, playing games, learning, and has a variety of activities, provides an environment that kids will enjoy.
Kids love learning new skills. Just watch the joy of a child making contact for the first time or catching a ball for the first time. As their skill level improves, the challenges must also increase. If they are not challenged they will lose interest.
All kids want to be accepted and liked by their peers. Playing on a team gives kids the opportunity to form friendships and interact with other kids in a setting other than school. The team gives the individual child a group identity and a common purpose. It fun sharing the experience with their friends. Many kids will only play because their friends are playing. That often is the main draw for them to be involved.
Action and Excitement
Everyone remembers shooting that winning shot in the championship game? Remember, the one you hit each time you went out to shoot baskets by yourself when you were a kid. By doing so you took an activity that might be fun and turned it in to something exciting and challenging. Kids seek that excitement in organized sports as well. They want action; they want excitement. It's up to coaches to put them in situations where that desire will be fulfilled.
Many kids get involved in sports because their parents signed them up. By playing the sport and doing well they receive special attention from their parents and other people close to them. Kids want to please their parents and by performing well they see that their parents are proud of them.
Competition is listed last for a reason. It's not that kids don't enjoy competing against their peers, many do. Many kids simply don't like the increased pressure of the competition that they feel from coaches and parents. It's that increased pressure that can take away from the enjoyment of the sport. Learning how to deal with competition and disappointment is important. It's also important that coaches and parents realize the desire for competition and the importance of it for the child will develop as their skills do...slowly. Many kids aren't ready to be pushed into highly competitive situations where they feel the pressure to perform.
Obviously this isn't a complete list of what kids are looking for when they participate in sports. It is important as a coach and parent that you realize that there are a variety of reasons that kids play. Making sure that your approach matches the desires of the players is essential in providing them with a rewarding season. Finding out what motives your child, and the players on your team, will help you develop a plan for the season that fits in with their desires.
Parenting Philosophy > http://www.qcbaseball.com/philosophy/parenting1.aspx
Coaching Your Own Child > http://www.qcbaseball.com/philosophy/coaching_own_child1.aspx
The Importance of Winning > http://www.qcbaseball.com/philosophy/winning1.aspx
Winning The Mental Way > http://www.qcbaseball.com/philosophy/winning_the_mental_way1.aspx
Baseball "Instruction" > http://www.qcbaseball.com/skills/baseball_instruction1.aspx