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NFCA Tip Of The Week: Parental Involvement

It usually occurs during the pre-game warm-up. While the young athlete is loose and relaxed, she has been conditioned to the unique sound of the motor as the car arrives at the field. Before she knows it, her father is standing at the fence, making gestures, eye contact or even barking out orders. As the coaches roll their eyes, she gets more and more tense and embarrassed. The fun is gone. This is "seirous business" now. She is afraid to make a mistake. What do you think will happen next?

This is not an unusual occurance. There is no doubt that as parents, we love our kids and that our intention is to do what is best for them. How many times have you told them this during an argument? However, good intentions do not spare the child from emotional injury.

When I have worked with parents, many have said, in a hurt and angry fashion, "Okay, I won't have anything more to do with their softball then!" Withdrawal and abandonment are not the answer. Learning the difference between involvement and interference is. I have given numerious talks to female athletes on the mental aspects of the game, and have found it quite fascinating that, during the question and answer sessions, their concerns were about parental pressure and interference and not about improved performance.

The following is a list of the "do's" of parental involvement and the "don'ts" of parental interference.

Interference

1. Don't go into the dugout to give instructions.

The girls have coaches and they have worked hard on developing cohesion and a mental attitude toward the game. Yelling out tips, advice, correction or criticism will in no way improve your daughter's performance. The same principle holds true in yelling out advice from the sidelines. Keep in mind, the content and accuracy of the information is not the issue. Basically, you are interfering. I teach parents to follow the rule, "Help not asked for is criticism." If your daughter has not asked for your advice, don't give it.

2. Don't question the coach's decisions during or between games.

As a parent, you have a right to your opinion regarding playing time., attitude, criticsm, etc. However, I recommend the 24-hour rule: speak to the coach 24 hours after the game. By then, the dust has settled, tempers have cooled and saner heads prevail. At that time, be specific as to your concerns. Beginning at approximately 14 years old, I believe it is important for you to empower your daughters and teach them to take care of their own needs. Rather than speak for them, discuss the issues with them and encourage them to speak up for themselves.

3. Don't make a spectacle of yourself during the game.

Loud and rude comments to umpires, opposing coaches or even opponents may seem humorous to you, but your daughter is cringing in the dugout with embarrassment. Always keep in mind that you are a role model and act on the field the way you would want your child to behave.

4. Don't tell your daughter everything she has done wrong on the ride home from the game.

Trust me, this is not what is considered quality time and sharing. You may think it is helpful but she feels criticized. In addition, she already knows that the error she made in the seventh inning that allowed the winning run to score was not good and does not to be reminded of it by you.

As I stated earlier, we all mean well as parents and want what is best for our daughters. We send our children to instructors, camps, lessons -- perhaps we need to be trained to become positive and involved parents. I suggest you think about the following:

Involvement

1. Always be positive. Learn to encourage, not criticize. If you don't have something good to say, don't say it.

2. Be a parent, not an agent. Talk to your daughter regarding her concerns and help her learn to take care of most issues herself. RAther than criticize coaches and players and make excuses for herself, take the excellent opportunity to teach her how to cope with adversity. Don't make lists of demands for the coaches to follow.

3. Spend time practicing at home. In the years to come, you both will treaure the memories of tossing the ball around, much more so than victories and losses.

4. Volunteer your time. Ask the coach how you can help and follow his direction. Your daughter will appreciate your positive involvement and be proud to have you as part of the team.

5. Attend games and cheer. As I have stated on many occasions, we must always keep in mind that positive self-esteem is the primary goal of sports, not winning or losing.