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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Rutgers Reality Check: A Parent’s Playbook for Demanding Great Coaches

Does your child's athletic coach teach him or her the required skills of their sport in a manner that is reminiscent of what we all saw happen at a particularly abusive, and highly publicized, basketball practice at Rutgers University?

The answer should never be "yes."

This type of heinous, inexcusable, verbal abuse is never appropriate and should never be tolerated.

Some coaches might downplay their actions by calling their tactics "intense." This is the vernacular an abusive coach might use to defend his/her coaching style.

Here are three thoughts you should remember...
...when it comes to the interactions your children have with their coaches:

  • Don't assume that your children (of any age) are being treated with dignity and respect.
  • Don't assume that they're not being aggressively intimidated to perform.
  • Don't assume that your child's self-esteem and self-worth are a priority to his or her coach.

I encourage you to read the following article from Todd Patkin in response to the recent events at Rutgers University. It is incredibly thoughtful, and I feel certain that you will appreciate his insight and will begin to evaluate the coaches you entrust your children to each and every day.  Just because your children have really honed their skills in a particular sport with the help of his/her coach for years, the means to get to that point may not be what you thought.

{Below is Part 1 of our series from Todd Patkin.}

By now, you’ve seen the leaked video of former Rutgers University Men’s Basketball
Coach Mike Rice abusing his players at practice. According to Todd Patkin, it’s a

sad but necessary reality check for parents about the kind of impact coaches are having

on their children. He provides tips on how parents can evaluate their kids’

coaches and ensure they’re getting the most positive experience possible.

Realize that harsh coaching methods do cause damage. There’s no question that harsh coaching methods, such as calling players out, getting in their faces, and “motivating” them through fear, do more harm than good. In the short term, the tactics like those used by Coach Mike Rice at Rutgers cause anxiety, shame, and low self-esteem. Over time, a bullied athlete’s weakened confidence and sense of self-worth can eradicate motivation and love for the game. And worst of all, it can transfer to other areas of the young person’s life, making him or her less confident socially and academically. After all, it’s a short step from believing I’m not good enough on the field to I don’t have what it takes to succeed at all.
“I believe that some coaches may think that their tactics are working if their teams are performing well or improving,” Patkin shares. “But what they don’t know is that their star player dreads practice and has a knot of anxiety in his stomach for days before a game. Remember, it’s your responsibility as a parent to make sure that your child’s coach is not negatively impacting her love for the game, and much more importantly, her overall self-esteem in all areas of her life for years to come.”
Does the coach strike out through criticism? Criticism: It has to happen in order for improvement to take place. But there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Coach Mike Rice joins a long line of famous coaches who have chosen the wrong way: berating players and shaming them in front of the team, insulting them for making mistakes, and delivering advice in anger. Unfortunately, these approaches tend to only alienate players and make coaches an object of fear rather than respect.
“Here are a few rules of thumb I suggest following to evaluate a coach when it comes to criticism,” shares Patkin. “First, he should criticize only in private, not in public. A coach should pull a player aside for a one-on-one discussion, one that is respectful and free of abusive language, not yell at him in front of the whole team. Also, a good coach should make sure the player knows he cares about more than just the mistake. Ideally, he’ll try to accompany each criticism with a few compliments. Remember, we all tend to be our own worst critics—even kids. Many young athletes will tend to focus on what they’ve done wrong, not the many things they’ve done well. The ratio of compliments to criticism they receive from their coaches can shape their self-perception for a long time to come.”

Think about what a coach’s job really is. Your child does not play on a professional team. His coach’s goal should not be to build a career, but to teach and guide young people who are in the midst of their mental, emotional, and physical development. Ideally, what a coach teaches during practice will also help kids develop the skills they’ll need to succeed in many other areas for the rest of their lives. When you look at it that way, coaching is as much about growing children through positive motivation and attitude as it is about imparting the mechanics of swinging a bat or kicking a ball.
“I know from personal experience that success in any area of life is achieved mainly through encouragement and positive reinforcement,” Patkin explains. “While I am not an athletic coach, Idid lead my family’s business for many years, and actually grew it into the number one commercial auto parts company in the country—while knowing relatively little about the parts themselves or the workings of vehicles. Here’s my point: Many of the same strategies I used to motivate employees can be translated into coaching young athletes. It’s every bit as important for your child to feel special and valued as it is to make sure they’re learning the rules of the game.”

Written by Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In and Twelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People.


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