Dear Athletic Support: My son recently mentioned the way I “cheer” for him at games is embarrassing. He told me to stop. However, I don’t yell at him, his coaches or the umpires. I just offer encouragements a few times a game. I’m not alone, either. All the other parents are encouraging their kids. Is there something wrong with the way I’m showing my support? — Dad In The Stands
Dear In The Stands: Are you using phrases like, “Relax and have fun. You’ve got this,” or are your “encouragements” more along the lines of, “Just throw strikes, son. Hit the glove!”
There is a difference, a big difference. The first bit about “relaxing,” that’s what we’re after. The second one—“Just throw strikes, son”—that’s not an encouragement. It’s a coaching point. A bad one.
Of course, your son is trying to throw strikes. Major League pitchers try to throw strikes, but sometimes they still walk batters. Stating the obvious will not help your son succeed. More than likely it will distract him.
Next time you’re at a youth sporting event, take a step back and listen. Young athletes endure a constant stream of instructions. Parents. Coaches. Other players. Imagine if you were subjected to this sort of information overload at your job. It would definitely affect your work.
But what if you don’t agree with the coach? Maybe he isn’t “coaching” up to your standards. Does that give you the right to scream freely from the stands?
Odds are your son’s coach is a volunteer. It’s highly likely you had an opportunity to sign up and offer your time as well, but you didn’t. So that means you don’t get to “coach.” You get to offer your support and encouragement. You get to parent. That’s it. And if this coach isn’t doing a good job, then teach your child how to handle a less than ideal situation. It may be the most important lesson he learns all year.
Dear Athletic Support: My 7-year-old grandson is a little behind on his baseball team. His parents aren’t really into athletics, so he doesn’t get a lot of extra practice at home. There are multiple baseball camps he could be attending over the summer, but he just doesn’t seem that interested. Is there a good way for me to suggest the camps to him without coming off as too pushy? — Nervous Nana
Dear Nervous Nana: Tough situation. There’s a part of me that would advise you to let your grandson find his own way. Let him follow his passions. Maybe baseball isn’t for him. Maybe he doesn’t really like it. But there’s a problem with this advice.
Your grandson is only 7; he doesn’t know what he likes.
He might hit a growth spurt next spring and start swinging that bat like a budding Babe Ruth. After hitting all those homers, he might LOVE baseball. You never know.
So, yes, you can do a little research. Scope out the best camps. Talk to his parents about what you find. Talk to him. That last part is really important. Talk to your grandson about baseball. Maybe even take him to a game. See if a day at the ballpark with Nana doesn’t pique his interest.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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