segunda-feira, 26 de novembro de 2012

Enhancing coach-parent relationships in youth sports; Increasing harmony and minimizing hassle

Smoll, F.L.; Cumming, S.P. and Smith, R.E. - University of Washington, Seattle, USA - International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, volume 6, Number 1, 2011

"Research has shown that parents not only influence children's socialization into sport, but they have a profound impact on the psychological consequences that accrue.
The coach-parent-athlete triad has been referred to as the "athletic triangle". The members of thos social system interact with one another in complex ways, and the nature of those interactions can have significant consequences for the psychological development of the child. Indeed, coaches are in a position to channel parents genuine concerns and good intentions in a way that heightens the value of athletes sport experiences. Furtherm parents can influence the quality of the dyadic coach-athlete relationship, as defined by feelings of closeness, commitment, and complementarity.

The purpose of this article is to assist coaches in working effectively with parents, thereby increasing the harmony and minimizing of
i) the difference between youth and professional models of sport,
ii) the goals of youth sports, including a healthy philosophy of winning,
iii) parental responsabilities and challenges,
iv) how to achieve effective two-way communication with parents,
v) how to organize and conduct sport meetings with parents.

i) Development vs Professional Models of Sport

Youth sports provide an educational medium for the development of desirable physical and psychosocial characteristics.
In contrast, professional sports are an explicitly commercial enterprise. Their goals, simply stated, are to entertain and, ultimately, to make money. Financial sucess is of primary importance and depends heavily on a product orientation, namely, winning. Is this wrong? Certainly not! Professional sports are part of the entertainment industry, and as such, they are enormously valued on a worldwise basis.
What, then, is the problem? Most of the negative consequences of youth sports occur when adults erroneously impose a professional model on what should be a recreational and educational experience for youngsters - the so called "profesionalization" of youth sports. When excessive emphasis is placed on winning, it is easy to lose sight of the needs and interests of the young athlete.

ii) Objetives of youth sports

Participation in youth sports can yield many benefits. Some of them are physical, such as acquiring sport skills and increasing health and fitness. Others are psychological, such as developing leadership skills, self-discipline, respect for authority, competitiveness, cooperativeness, sportsmanship, and self.confidence. Youth sports are also an important social activity in which children can make new friends and acquaintances and become part of an ever-expanding social network.
Furthermore, the involvement of parents in the athletic enterprise can serve to bring families closer together and strengthen family unity. Finally, of course, youth sports are (or should be) just plain fun!
The basic right of the young athlete to have fun participating should not be neglected. One of the quickest ways to reduce fun is for adults to begin treating children as if they were professional athletes. Coaches and parents alike need to keep in mind that young athletes are not miniature adults. They are children, and they have the right to play as children. Youth sports are first and foremost a play activity, and youngsters deserve to enjoy sports in their own way.
What about winning? The common notion in sports equates sucess with victory. However, with a "winning is everything" philosophy, young athletes may lose opportunities to develop their skills, to enjoy participation, and grow socially and emotionally. Well informed coaches realize that sucess is not equivalent to winning games, and failure is not the same as losing. Rather, the most important kind of sucess comes from striving to win and giving maximum effort. The only thing athletes can control is the amount of effort they give.
An effort-oriented philosophy of winning is one of the core principles underlying the creation of a mastery motivational climate - a learning environment that emphasizes skill development, personal and team sucess, maximum effort, and fun.

What about the objectives that young athletes seek to achieve? A survey of more than 100 000 youth sport participants in the state of Michigan indicated that young athletes participated for the following reasons (listed in the order og their importance):
a) to have fun
b) to improve skills and learn new skills
c) for thrills and excitement
d) to be with friends or make new friends
e) succeed or win

Coaches, parents and sport administrators should be part of a team trying to accomplish common goals. By working together to reduce chances of misunderstanding and problems, the objectives can be attained. In this regard, parents should be encouraged to view their involvement in youth sports as an integral part of their child-rearing responsabilities.

iii) Parents responsabilities and challenges

To begin with, parents must realize that children have a right to choose not to participate.
Children should not be pressured, intimidated, or bribed into playing. Athletes who feel "entrapped" report less enjoyment, lower intrinsic motivation and benefits of being involved in sports, and are more likely to drop out of sports. Parents should counsel their children, giving consideration to the sport selected and the level of competition at which the children want to play. And, of course, parents should respect their children's decisions.
For those children who wish to direct their energies in other ways, the best program may be no program. Many parents become unnecessarily alarmed if their child does not show an interest in sports. They think that a child who would rather do other things must somehow be abnormal. But forcing a child into sports against his or her will can be a big mistake. Sometimes the wisest decision is to encourage the child to move into other activities that may be more suited to his or her interests and abilities, at least until an interest in sports develops.

The reversed-dependency phenomenon
Parents often assume an extremely active role in youth sports, and in some instances, their influence becomes an important source of children's stress.

Coaches may be able to counteract this tendency by explaining the over-identification process to parents. They can tell parents that placing excessive pressure on children can decrease the potential of sports for enjoyment and personal growth. A key to reducing parent-produced stress is to impress on parents that youth sport programs are for young athlets and that children and youth are not adults.

Commitments and Affirmations
The following questions serve as important reminders of the scope of parents responsabilities - questions to which parents must honestly answer "Yes".
- Can parents share their son or daughter?
This requires putting the child in the coach's charge and trusting him or her to guide the sport experience. It involves accepting the coach's authority and the fact that the coach  may gain some of the admiration and affection the childe once directed solely at the parent. This commitment does not mean that parents cannot have input, but the coach is the boss!
- Can parents accept their childs disappointments?
Every child athlete experiences "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" as part of the competition process. This may mean not being embarrassed, ashamed, or angry when their son or daughter cries after losing a contest. When an apparent disappointment occurs, parents should be able to help their children learn from the experience.
- Can parents show their child self-control?
Parents should be reminded that they are important role models for their children's behavior. Coaches can hardly be expected to teach sportsmanship and self-control to youngsters whose parents obviously lack these qualities.
- Can parents give their child some time?
Parents need to decide how much time can be devoted to their children's sport activities. Conflicts arise when they are very busy yet are also interested and want to encourage their children.
- Can parents let their child make his or her own decisions?
Coaches should encourage parents to offer suggestions and guidance about sports, but ultimately, within reasonable limits, they should let the child go his or her own way. All parents have ambitions for their child, but they must accept the fact that they cannot dominate their child's life.

Conduct at sport events
As part of their responsabilities, parents should watch their children compete in sports. But their behavior must meet acceptable standards. In addition to acknowledging some obviously inappropriate actions, the following rules for parental behavior (do's and don'ts) have recommended:

1. Do remain in the spectator area during the event
2. Don't interfere with the coach
3. Do express interest, encouragement, and support to young athletes. Communicate repeatedly that giving total effort is all that is expected.
4. Don't shout instructions or criticisms to the children
5. Do lend a hand when a coach or official asks for help.
6. Don't make abusive comments to athlets, parents, officials, or coaches of either team.

iv) Two-way communication

Parents have both the right and the responsability to inquire about all activities that their children are involved in, including sports. For this reason, coaches should be willing to answer questions and remain open to parent's input. If coaches keep the lines of communication open, they will be more likely to have constructive relations with parents.
Fostering two-way communication does not mean that parents are free to be disrespectful toward coaches in word or action. Rather, it is an open invitation for parents to express their genuine concerns with the assurance that they will be heard by the coach.
Coaches should tell parents what times and places are best suited for discussions.

In establishment good relations with parents, coaches should be aware that most parents are really enthusiastic and have a true concern for their children. Sometimes, however, parents simply do not realize the trouble they are causing.

Desinterested parents
The most noticeable characteristic of desinterested parents is their absence from team activities to a degree that is upsetting to their child.
What coaches should do: Coaches should find out why the parents do not participate and contribute, and let them know that their involvement is welcome. Coaches should avoid the mistake of misjudging parents who are actually interested but have good reasons (work, sickness, etc.) for missing activities.

Overcritical parents
Such parents are never quite satisfied with their child's performance. They give the impression that it is more "their" game than it is the athlete's.
What coaches should do: as discussed earlier, some parents unconsciusly relate the sucess or failure of  their child with their own success or failure. They can explain how constant criticism can cause stress and emotional turmoil for their youngster - irritation that actually hinders performance. They can tell the parents why they prefer to use praise and encouragement to motivate and instruct young people, and how parents can do the same.
What coaches can say: "Mr.Jones, I know you're only trying to help Nathan, but when you criticize him, he gets so nervous that he plays worse, and that certainly takes any fun out of it for him." or "Mr.Jones, I've found that Nathan responds much better to encouragement and praise than he does to criticism. If you were to encourage your son instead of criticizing him so much, sports would be a lot more enjoyable for both of you."

Parents who scream from behind the bench
They frequently rant and rave and virtually drown out everyone else speaking in the area, including the coach. Everyone is the target for their verbal abuse - team members, opponents, coaches, officials.
What coaches should do. During a break in the contest (half time, between periods), coaches can calmly, tactfully, and privately point out to the person that such yelling is a poor example for the young athlets. Coaches can ask other people to help out by working with this person during games. Also, coaches can give the disruptive parent a job that will help the team (scouting opponents, keeping stats, looking agter equipment, etc.).
What coaches can say: "I know it's easy to get excited, but these kids are out here to have a good time. Try not to take the game so seriously, okay?" or "Listen, why don't we get together after the game and you can give me some of your ideas on coaching. I'd rather have them afterward because during the game, they're very confusing."

Sideline coaches
Parents who assume the role of sideline coaches are often found learning over the bench making suggestions to athletes. They may contradict the coach's instructions and disrupt the team.
What coaches should do: Again, coaches should not confront such a parent right away.
Coaches should advise their athletes that during practices and games they are coach and they want the athletes full attention. Listening to instructions from others may become confusing.
What coaches can say: "Ms. Slavin, I appreciate your concern and enthusiasm for the team. But when you are coaching Isla from the sidelines, it becomes confusing and distracting to her. I know you've got some good ideas, and i want to hear them. But please, after the game."

Overprotective parents
Most often, over-protective parents are mothers of the athletes. Such parents are characterized by their worried looks and comments whenever their son or daughter is playing. Overprotective parents frequently threaten to remove their child because of the dangers involved in the sport.
What coaches should do: Coaches must try to eliminate the fear of injury by reassuring the parent that the event is fairly safe. They can explain the rules and equipment that protect the athlete.
What coaches can say: "Ms.  Smith, we try to make the game as safe as possible for the athletes. You've got to remember that i wouldn't be coaching kids if i didn't care about them or if i thought the sport was dangerous for them." ir "Ms. Smith, I care about each one of these kids, and i would never let any of them do anything that i thought would endanger them."

v) The Coach-Parent meeting

However, successful coaches are aware of the importance of securing the aid and support of well-informed parents. Rather than facing the task of dealing with problem parents, a pre-season meeting is the key to reducing the chance of unpleasant experiences. In other words, having a coach-parent meeting is well worth the additional time and effort.

Purpose of the meeting
The objectives of a coach-parent meeting are to:
a) improve parents understanding of youth sports,
b) gain their cooperation and support

Planning and preparation
Coaches who have held meetings with parents indicate that it is not an overtaxing experience, and the benefits make the meeting a good investment.
However, the importance of being well prepared and organized cannot be overemphasized.

Content and conduct of the meeting
The coach can do this by:
a) encouraging parents to ask questions
b) directing questions to them from time to time
Also, in creating an open atmosphere for exchange, it is very important to show respect for the parents. They should feel that they are a contributing part of the meeting, rather thar a mere audience.

Opening: Let them know that their interest and concern are appreciated. The coach can point out that they are taking an important step toward assuring a quality sport experience for their children. Next, the coach establishes credibility by giving pertinent background information.
 The coaches tells parents about his or her experience in the sport, experience as a coach, and special training that he or she has had. Finally, the coach points out the purposes of the meeting and tells prents how he or she will provide information about fundamentals of the sport.
 To gain respect, coaches must show confidence in leading the session.

Objectives of Youth Sports: A discussion of the objectives of childrens's athletics, including a mastery-oriented philosophy of winning, should follow the opening remarks. The coach should focus on those goals and values that are a major part of his or her coaching. As pointed out earlier, if coaches and parents work together to reduce misunderstandings, the objectives can be achieved.

Details of the Sport Program: Presenting details about the operation of the sport program is another valuable part of the session. In so doing, consideration should be given to the following:
a) equipment needed and where it can be purchased,
b) sites and schedules for practices and contests,
c) lenght of practices and contests,
d) team travel plans,
e) major team rules and guidelines,
f) special rule modifications to be used at this level of competition,
g) medical examinations,
h) insurance,
i) fund-raising projects
j) communication system for cancellations and so on,
k) midseason and postseason events.

Coaching Roles and Relationships: Parents will benefit from knowing about the coach's leadership style. The coach should encourage parents to reinforce this approach in interactions with their children.

Parents Responsabilities and Challenges: Informing parents about the responsabilities the coach expects them to fulfill is the most important part of the meeting.
The coach should discuss the following topics:
1) Dangers of the reversed-dependency phenomenon
2) Parent commitments and affirmations
3) Rules of conduct at sports events

Coach Parent relations: Should let the parents know what times and places are best suited for discussions

The parents will appreciate the honesty!

And, finally, at the end of the meeting, the coach should thank the parents again for attending.
The coach.parent meeting is a vitally important tool for developing parent involvement and support. A successful meeting will help solidify the athletic triangle (the coach-parent-athlete triad) and lead to positive youth sport experiences.

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