Competitive parents can be a disadvantage to their child’s team

October 23, 2019 — by Shreya Katkere

With only 10 seconds left on the clock before the ball was turned over to the other team in the girls’ water polo match, several unintelligible screams from parents echoed throughout the pool deck, as parents screamed to “pass to the girl on the right,” which contradicted the coach’s call to “keep swimming with the ball.” Confused, the player passed the ball, which caused it to land in the hands of the opposing team, and allowed them to easily swim the ball to the other end and score a goal.

Often times, especially at the varsity level, the parents of students playing the sport are more competitive and invested in the game than the students themselves. This is wrong.

Parents should not be more involved in the game than the student-athletes themselvesstudents because it interferes with the coach’s instruction and adds more stress into the lives of students. 

Junior Sayan Manney, who coaches younger children in basketball, says that he receives a lot of criticism from parents who do not always support his coaching style during practices and games.

“I’ve had many parents complain about their child not getting any playing time,” Manney said. “Many of them also try to correct the way I teach kids.”

Similar to Manney, Spanish teacher Bret Yeilding has also experienced having competitive parents while he was coaching basketball. 

“Parents need to be able to separate that they are not their child’s coach and that they are just the parent,” Yeilding said.  “They shouldn’t tell their kids that they were terrible today because their kid doesn’t need that from their mom or dad. They also shouldn’t ask to go over every play after the game.”

Many parents want to start their children off early in a sport so that they have enough time to master it before high school, since excelling in a sport may lead to college recruitment. However, parents should stay away from this overenthusiastic spirit because it often leads to the child to no longer be interested in the sport.

As students get older, they have a growing pile of commitments to manage with school work and extracurricular activities. With parents’ pressure for students to perform well in their sports, stress can be suffocatingtends to only increase.

This unintended yet additional stress may lead to a child becoming disincentivized to play a sport and is instead being dragged along by their parents’ motivation.

In an article from Psychology Today, Jim Taylor, Ph.D., writes that about 70 percent of young teens are dropping out of organized sports by their early teens. The main reasons for this trend are that sports are no longer as fun because of the large importance many parents place on winning.

Senior Rosa Golchin has experienced the competitive nature of children who compete in rowing as early as middle school, whose parents often want them to continue the family legacy of rowing from siblings, parents and grandparents. 

“They are molded to be good rowers from the sixth or seventh grade,” Golchin said. “The level of expectations, the level of success and the commitment so many people have in the sport is crazy.” 

Golchin notes that although this competitive culture in rowing helps many rowers get into top schools, this often happens at the expense of their mental health because of the amount of time required to excel at the sport.

“Last year, four of the graduating seniors on the girls team went to Stanford and one went to the University of Washington, which is arguably the best rowing school in the nation,” Golchin said. “Even though many rowers are very passionate about their sport, the amount of time and practice involved can be tough to manage with school work and other extracurriculars.”

Often, when parents are overly competitive, it is not just their child who is affected.

Senior Sanam Mokhberi, a goalie on the girls’ water polo team, noticed that when parents are yelling directions to their kids, it makes it harder for the field players to hear the coach’s directions. This often results in a player accidentally passing it to a player that is not open, which leads to a turnover of the ball.

However, Mokhberi likes the approach her parents take when it comes to her performance in sports because they always support her and just want her put in her best effort. Other parents should adopt a similar approach to Mokhberi’s parents because that way they will not contribute to the stress their child may feel.

“I think that when parents are overly competitive and begin to coach their kids into playing their sport, it adds unnecessary anxiety to the kid’s life,” senior Sanam Mokhberi said. “Also, I think that when the parent is overly invested in the sport that leads the kid to become more disinterested.” 

In order for coaches to deal with competitive parents, they should make parents sign a sportsmanship form, similar to what school athletes sign, stating a list of behaviors that they should not take part in during games. This will remind parents of the importance of not being too involved during games which they might have previously overlooked.

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