“Get the kid to buy into your dream. If you can get the kid to buy into what you’re selling, you’ve got it made.”
That quote comes from the documentary Trophy Kids directed by Chris Bell (he also directed Bigger, Stronger, Faster which I highly recommend). This documentary takes a look at overbearing parents and their quest to "help" their child become the best athlete they can become. The examples in this documentary are to the extreme end, but, I have seen examples of this over the course of my coaching career. Here are a few from the documentary and common ones I come across at different sporting events.
Example 1: The parent who puts his kid on every travel team, pays for private coaching sessions, force feeds the kid protein shakes and is the loud mouth at every competition. The man in the documentary is quoted as saying that he has spent "two Lamborghini's easily" in his son's training. From the age of 10 this father was feeding his child all types of pills, sometimes as many as 25, in the hopes that the kid would grow. All this in the hopes that the son will get a college scholarship. Getting a scholarship is one thing, but continuing to play the sport while in college is another. By the time some kids walk on campus, they are already burned out and quit. All that money spent is thrown out the window. The parent can't believe it. This is an example of the parent thinking that the child wants the same thing that the parent wanted
Example 2: The parent of a youth athlete who takes things too far. I have witnessed parents bring their child to tears during a match or competition. This is in front of everyone in attendance. You can only guess what goes on behind closed doors. The emotional damage this does to a child is extremely harmful. Continually getting picked apart for every little thing will lead that child to believe they aren't worth shit. This happens at the upper levels too where every car ride home from practice or a game becomes a "coaching" session from the parent. If the kid made a mistake, there is a pretty good chance they know they made that mistake. And they probably feel bad for making that mistake. They don't need anyone else, especially a parent, re-living that moment and telling them what they should have done. This is one area that really bothers me. Let the coaches coach and support your kid after competition. Your support and love should be consistent. It should not be determined upon if the child won or lost.
Example 3: The supportive parent. This one is tough for me. A few years ago I was working with a wrestler and his father was working a crazy amount of hours to pay for his child's camps and training sessions. He told me that when he grew up, he didn't have these opportunities. He wanted to do everything in his power to set his kid up to be successful. He was very open and candid about everything. He even got a little emotional talking about it. With this kid in particular, he didn't want it as much as his dad. The father thought that given the child these opportunities, he would put in the work. A mother in the documentary said, "What if I didn't do everything I could to help them reach their dreams?" Sometimes, we forget whose dream it really is!
Dr. Larry Lauer is the mental skills specialist for United States Tennis Association's Player Development. A majority of his work is done with developing young talent and how much is too much in regards to training. He uses the term "optimal push" when identifying how far to take certain training methods. The optimal push is when there is some structure, but not too much where the parent wants to control everything. A good example of this is when the parent attends every scheduled practice or training session and is virtually breathing down the kids neck. Any issue that may arise, he or she chimes in and makes a comment to the child. There is no evidence that this type of parenting will make the child better or "toughen them up". It most likely does more harm than good in kids. If they feel that the child doesn't give the effort or have the motivation to work hard, maybe it is because the parent is on top of there every move. Or maybe the kid might not care much about the sport. Maybe they only do it for their parent. Maybe it is only the parent's goal and not the child's. The parents goal should be to help their child find what their passionate about and support them in that field. Not force them to do something they don't want to be doing. The motivation has to come from the child. There is no amount of extrinsic motivation that will get the child to do what the parent wants them to do.
With that being said, I am out!
Enjoy your day
Chris is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has recently served as a high school football and wrestling coach. Chris loves swinging kettlebells around, watching football and reading books!