The season is almost over. One week to go, and then the final away provincial championship.
I get a bunch of phone calls each year from parents around this time asking my advice on this topic.
Symptoms of the athlete’s situation:
- slowly getting less and less playing time throughout the year – the last few games he/she barely played
- self-esteem is plummeting
- becoming super frustrated
- have no idea why they are not playing
- don’t agree with why they are not playing
- feel they are better than the people who are playing
- just very sad
The Dilemma – Should you go to the final tournament even if you both do not want to go?
Arguments by parents
- parents have to take off work and leave early to get to the Friday-night game on time
- hotel and food cost a lot of money
- team activities in between games cost a lot
- athlete will spend most of his/her time freaking out and then being very sad, so parents will be having tiring and frustrating conversations they believe the coach should be having
- Parents spend most of the time watching their child look sad or angry for the entire game
Arguments by athletes
- they are not going to play anyway, so what is the point?
- they would rather stay home and play video games
My Experience and My Advice
As a former athlete, I can say from my own time on the bench that this a very tough situation to be in. It is hard to watch the coach walk by you on the bench, look at you, and think that you are not good enough to help the team win, whether it is true or not.
But now, as a sport parent with my own children, I can say that it is harder to be the parent than the athlete. There is so much worry about your child’s mental state, their self-esteem and self-worth, and then there’s the awful fear that they might quit.
So, wearing both hats, here is the advice I offer.
As an athlete it is hard to sit on the bench, but you learn something about yourself: this is just a cold hard fact. For some reason, whether it is the wrong or correct perception, you are not seen as good enough to help the team. Athletes can use this information in such an amazing way if their parent can help debrief them.
If debriefed properly, athletes can learn they have a burning desire to work hard and change their situation. They and only they are in control of how much effort they put in once they know their situation and muster the determination to change it.
You see your child riding the pine, and that can make you really mad, but are you mad enough to prove that the ones who think your child lacks talent are wrong? One season riding the pine can really help an athlete feed the fire and desire to get better, and that is something you want your athlete to have. Can you explain to your athlete that they have the power to slowly chip away at skill deficits and build their skill level during the off season?
You should go!
It is important for any athlete to finish what they start. Letting them quit just at the end may seem convenient and may be less expensive, but the truth is can set a precedent of quitting something, and that is never a good habit to get into.
Please do not try to take away the pain they are feeling. Instead help them channel it to create the solution they desire. You will be helping them learn a great life skill.
What can you do for your athlete now? Because it sucks to be you and him/her right now
Tweak your way of thinking. Instead of going to the tournament and hoping that your kid might get more playing time, go to the tournament knowing what you are getting into and set some different kind of goals to end the season on a good note.
- Help your athlete set the goal of becoming a cheerleader on the bench. The truth is, you and I both know that your kid is not playing this weekend, so teach them how to be a great teammate. Tell him to high five each person coming off the bench, and during the game shout out specific words of praise.
- In the working world sometimes you need to learn when to be in a support role. It doesn’t always feel great, but sometimes you need to swallow your pride and be genuinely willing to do anything the team needs to allow the group to be successful.
- Add value to the team experience. Bring a bunch of extra snacks and set up the after-game party, where you host the whole team and make it fun for not only your kid but all the others, too.
- Make sure you are one of the parents who is cheering the loudest. It is important for your child to see you model great behavior and not mirroring his/her own disappointment.
Although right now your kid is in mental pain, the reality is that he or she will learn from this experience. It is up to you to explain how.
LIFE SKILL TAKEAWAY
Many times in your career you may think you are great employee, but you are not getting the promotion you want or accomplishing the goals you have set. Learning how to identify and understand your real situation and then seeking the information you need to fix it—and then actually doing something about it—is a skill you need to be successful in the working world.
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Stephanie uses easy-to-understand principles—simple, relevant, practical solutions for dealing with mediocrity at work, at home and on the athletic field—without quick fix schemes.