Here’s a story that will make you laugh and hopefully think about what it means to be a youth basketball parent.
A mother was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her teenage son. Suddenly, the boy burst into the kitchen.
“Careful! Careful! Put in some more butter! Oh my goodness! You’re cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They’re going to STICK! Careful! … CAREFUL! I said CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you’re cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind? Don’t forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!”
The mother stared at him. “What’s wrong with you? You think I don’t know how to fry a couple of eggs?”
The son calmly replied, “I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I’m trying to play basketball.”
I love that story because it perfectly encapsulates the problem that many young basketball players experience during practices and games. Would you want someone doing that to you while you were working, trying your best to concentrate, and make decisions in the moment? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. That would be a pretty high stress workplace and yet many of us create that type of environment for our kids in sports.
As a parent of a young basketball player we want to provide our child with the best opportunity to succeed. As a result, many of us end up trying to coach our sons and daughters from the stands during a game. We have the best of intentions in most cases, we see something that we think our young player should be doing and so we want to get that message to them. We call their name to attract their attention. We point out what they are doing wrong, or what they need to do next time. Maybe we express our disappointment with something that just happened in the game, a missed shot, a turnover, a teammate that didn’t pass the ball to our child. These are all scenarios that may be familiar to you as a youth basketball parent. You may see yourself in the story above or maybe you recognize some other parents you know. You may think you are helping your young player, but the reality is you are hurting their development.
As a coach for over 20 years I have witnessed players on my own team and teams I have coached against that were being “coached” from the stands. These young players hear their parents’ voice from the bleachers and they lose focus on the game. If their attention is on you in the stands it cannot be on the game itself. Many times, things that parents are yelling to their kids may be in direct contrast with the instructions they have been given by their coach. During a game, players are expected to perform their role to the best of their ability. If a 9 or 10 year old is getting two different messages from a coach and a parent, imagine how difficult that could be on your child. Chances are they want to please both you as their parent and also their coach. This can create a very stressful situation for a young player. Most of us do not perform as well under stress as we do when we are relaxed and confident. I have found parental coaching from the bleachers to negatively impact young players’ performances in games.
I have seen players from youth leagues all the way up through high school that cannot do anything during a game without taking a glance up at their parent. These are extreme cases where the young player seeks approval from the parent for every action they take out on the floor. If you find that your young player is looking to you in the stands during a game, chances are they are more worried about pleasing you than competing and having fun. As a player it is so important to be focused on the game itself, if a young player is always looking into the bleachers they are distracted from putting forth their best effort.
One of the great things about sports in general and basketball in particular is the amount of split second decisions that are made throughout the game. Do I take this shot or pass to a teammate? Which way should I move to position myself for this rebound? Who do I guard on this fastbreak? If your young player is always looking to you in the stands (or at the coach on the bench for that matter) for help in figuring out what to do in every game scenario, they are not building their decision making skills. Don’t try to control every movement your young player makes out on the basketball court. Remember, growth requires young players to stretch and make mistakes. No player is going to play a perfect game. Allowing your child to play their game and grow will help make them successful in the long run. A player who is always waiting to be told what to do, either by a parent or a coach, will never develop the ability to make quick decisions out on the court. That ability to make quick decisions is what will allow your young player to continue to have success as they progress to higher levels of basketball.
Here are some tips for what to do and what not to do as a parent of young basketball player while you are sitting in the bleachers.
Finally, remember to enjoy the journey. Your child’s playing days will be over before you know it. Ask them, “Did they have fun? Did they play hard? Did they listen to their coach?” Tell them, “I love watching you play.”
Let the kids “make their own eggs”!
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