Building Your Own Tiger Woods

In 1996 at the age of 20, Tiger Woods started playing professional golf and began a new chapter in his then 18 year run in the public eye. At the age of two, Tiger appeared on The Mike Douglas Show along with comedian Bob Hope in a demonstration of putting skills. At age 5, he appeared on the television show That’s Incredible. Tiger shot his first hole-in-one at age 6. At age 8, he won his first junior world championship. From the first time Tiger Woods saw his dad play golf, Tiger had a passion for the game. His entire youth focused on mastering the game both physically and mentally. For parents who want big things for their child, Tiger’s success provides some great lessons.

1. Expose your child to many opportunities.

Tiger’s dad, Earl Woods, played baseball for Kansas State University and at one point probably had dreams that his son would follow in his footsteps. When Earl starting playing golf at the age of 42, he developed a strong love of the game and spent many hours practicing. Earl shared this love of golf with his son and gave Tiger the opportunity to develop his own passion.

Not all kids will share their parent’s enthusiasm for a particular activity. But, if parents don’t share these activities with their children, kids may not know these opportunities exist. Exposing kids to a wide variety of activities and sports is the best way to help kids identify their own passions.

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Have You Talked with the Coach Today?

Good communication is not only critical among players, it is also critical between players and coaches. Players need to be able to talk with coaches to get the information and education they need. Many times communication from coaches can be confusing or incomplete. Players should feel comfortable talking and working with coaches to fill in the missing pieces.

For some players, talking with coaches can be intimidating. A coach’s age, experience and authority may leave some players tongue-tied. One way to get past this is to make a habit of asking the coach at least one question during each practice. The first few questions may be difficult, but after a few times it gets easier and players can start gaining more knowledge from their coaches.

Turning Around a Problem Parent

Last week’s post covered the 10 commitments that coaches should expect from parents. When these commitments are missing, coaches may find the team or a player suffering as a result. Here are some ideas for working through this problem.

  1. Assume parents are trying to help. In spite of what parents may be doing, most are behaving as they are because they believe their actions will benefit their child. Many times parents may be repeating inappropriate behaviors that were used with them when they played sports.
  2. Educate parents about best practices. If parents are working in their child’s best interests but are going about it wrong, then coaches can give parents alternative behaviors that will accomplish the desired results.
  3. Communicate frequently with parents as individuals and as a group. The more parents and coaches are at ease talking with each other about small issues, the more parents and coaches will be comfortable talking about more difficult issues.
  4. Rely on beginning of season communications. If the coach has held a meeting early in the season and given parents a clear set of goals and playing philosophies, coaches can go back to those to statements to restart the relationship.
  5. Seek help from league officials. Don’t hesitate to discuss a problem parent with the supervising league official. This provides an opportunity to gain insight into the parent or the problem as well as alerting others to a difficult situation.
  6. Seek advice from other coaches. With coach turnover, coaches are seeing problems with parents and parent issues that have been resolved many times by other coaches before them.
  7. Use parent meetings to form consensus and invoke peer pressure. Parent meetings are good times to set expectations for team parent behavior and discuss them. Parents are more likely to act in ways that they believe are supported by other parents.
  8. Rely on printed league statements and codes of conduct. In extreme situations, coaches may need to reference the league’s Code of Conduct to warn that current behavior may risk league actions. Coaches should use the league as the enforcer of these policies.

There is no standard approach to parent problems. A strategy focusing on communication, education and enforcement gives coaches the best chances of resolving parent issues.

When Life Deals You a Bad Season

Judging the success of a season is something that is easy for parents to do at anytime. If kids are playing in a safe environment that is fun and that is teaching the kids to be better people, then the season is going well. If there are risks that kids may get injured, want to quit playing or are learning the wrong life lessons, then the season is not only bad, it is on the verge of disaster.

Last week’s post covered the 10 commitments that parents should expect from coaches. When some or all of these commitments are missing, then the risks of a disastrous season increase. A lack of commitment from a coach can lead to an environment that has a negative impact on a child’s confidence and enjoyment. If not corrected, this negative impact can easily cut short a young person’s sports future.

One of the life lessons that parents often teach is that one should tough out a bad situation. Yet, when confronted with a season with a bad coach, parents should rethink the finer points of this lesson. Toughing out a season makes sense only if parents can be assured that their child will not loose enthusiasm for sports. Toughing out a bad situation may avoid conflict but is not worth the risk that the current season will be the child’s last.

There are alternatives to quitting for the season. Communication with the coach or league personnel may address the issue. Changing teams may be an option. However, placing a child’s overall enjoyment ahead of all other issues gives parents a good starting point to address the problem.

You Can Count on Me

Athletic ability is not judged by doing something well one time, but by doing something well many times. Consistency is critical to an athlete’s success. Teams depend on the consistency of their players to put together a winning game or season.

Consistency is made up of several elements that work together including:

  • Physical conditioning – Will a player’s body be able to perform on the 10th time like it did on the first time?
  • Mental conditioning – Can a player stay focused no matter what the score or time remaining?
  • Skill development – Does a player practice enough to turn occasional luck into a regular expectation?

Actual games do little to improve a player’s consistency. More benefit comes from working away from games through exercise and practice. If players want to become someone their team can count on, they need to take responsibility for developing their consistency.

Should Parents Be Committed?

Parents are an integral part of any youth team. Not only do they provide equipment, transportation and funding for the team, parents also spend much more time with the players than the coaches do. For teams to work well, there are 10 commitments that coaches should expect out of parents. Parents should be committed to:

  1. Patience – Giving kids the time and space to develop the necessary skills and passion for the game. Too much pressure to succeed immediately only makes it harder for coaches to teach fundamentals.
  2. Fun – Working to create a season of great memories for the future.
  3. Maturity – Helping kids handle the emotions of competitive play.
  4. Support – Working with the coach to help kids acquire the physical development skills necessary.
  5. Communication – Letting the coach know about any family or life issues affecting the players.
  6. Praise – Providing the positive motivation that players need to continue working hard.
  7. Preparation – Getting their kids ready for games and practices with the right equipment, rest and nutrition.
  8. Punctuality – Showing up on time for practices and games.
  9. Sportsmanship – Being positive role models for handling losses and wins.
  10. Team – Demonstrating concern for the needs of the team as well as for the needs of their own child.

Most coaches can run their season without having to confront a lack of parental commitment. When this does become a problem, coaches may occasionally be forced to resolve the situation for the benefit of a player or the team. Next week’s newsletter will provide some thoughts on how to deal with this issue.

Should Coaches Be Committed?

The start of a new season often means a new coach. Over time, the different backgrounds and styles of each coach will work to benefit a child’s abilities by providing fresh insights and approaches. Parents need to help the coach make the most of the limited time to create the best experience possible for their child. Parents also need to make sure that the coach is someone they want to instruct their child. There are 10 commitments that parents should expect out of a coach. Coaches should be committed to:

  1. Safety – Putting player safety first. This means everything from refusing to play an injured player to forfeiting a game that has become unsafe.
  2. Fun – Showing an understanding that a player’s effort is often determined by the amount of fun involved.
  3. Maturity – Positively handling the emotions of competitive play.
  4. Sportsmanship – Demonstrating the right way to lose as well as to win.
  5. Goals – Setting expectations for their players and for their team
  6. Education – Helping kids better understand and play the sport.
  7. Preparation – Spending the time to create organized and productive practices.
  8. Communication – Explaining the details of player progress, skills, plays or games to players and parents alike.
  9. Players – Demonstrating concern about players as individuals as well as about the team as a whole.
  10. Passion – Generating a positive passion for the sport and for fair competition.

Most coaches will meet these commitment tests with flying colors. However, there may be occasions when coaches don’t measure up. Then, parents must resolve the situation. Next week’s newsletter will provide some thoughts on this issue.