Greetings from Jairus Pascale here at the coaches desk at The Den! Over the last several years there has been a gradual shift in how coaches and athletic instructors communicate life lessons and techniques to younger (8-12yr old) athletes. This shift has even been taken on by a few professional and college coaches throughout the nation. This shift is one of the Advocate Coach. Many students and adults have had Adversarial Coaches through school and athletics. Where the Adversary Coach may use negative motivation and fear based incentive to get athletes to perform, the Advocate Coach takes a different approach. This style of coaching is not one that avoids discipline or correction, but the Advocate Coach focuses greatly on positive reinforcement.
So why is this coaching distinction important outside the coaches box? Next to your child’s coach, you the parents have some of the biggest potential to hurt or grow your young athlete. As a coach myself who coaches youth lacrosse here in Texas, I’ve seen parents that do a great job in relaying good motivating sports values to their children. On the other side of that coin I’ve also seen parents that can’t seem to find one positive thing their child has done, and they remind them of that constantly while on the field.
Many young athletes hear more negative motivations than what most parents would believe. As a coach I realize that the vast majority of parents are truly trying to be positive and uplifting for their kids in how the motivate. However your children don’t always take the words you say as you intend them to. For example, during a lacrosse game I heard a parent yell to their son, “catch number twenty-two, I know you’re faster than him.” Now to outside that may sound positive, however, when that athlete came back to bench he was almost in tears because he didn’t catch his opponent and was feared the reprisal of his parent. While his parent was trying to encourage him, what he heard instead was, “How could you not catch him, I thought you were better than that.” In reality most parents have no desire to degrade their child publicly while he or she plays sports. Sadly, many of what passes as mom and dad cheering is perceived by a lot of their kids as a negative. Many times during a season I have to take an athlete aside an explain to him that mom and dad aren’t intending to be mean or pressuring, and that they really do want to be encouraging and inspiring.
So how can you as a parent learn to be more motivating and less degrading to your athlete? Le’s start with a few phrases NOT to use. Whether from the sidelines or on the way home from a game, these phrases need be dialed down, and if possible, erased:
1. What were you thinking?
2. Why didn’t you do…?
3. What’s wrong with you and your coach?
4. You know what you should’ve done….
These phrases are some of the quickest ways to derail your athlete. If you look at these statements, you’ll notice that every message they send is one of failure or some kind of demotivating concept that can bring many younger athletes into a emotional downward spiral. This happens when the younger athlete feels that he or she can’t really win or please the adult making the comments; then many times that child will shut down. As I coach my lacrosse teams I’m very careful that how, when, and where I correct an athlete. A goal I keep in mind is to aim at having the athlete tell me what he did that was mistaken or tell me where he can make a better, more team focused decision if in fact he has made a mistake. Those four above phrases can really drain a younger athlete from wanting to keep going in a game, and can even drive them to quit sports all together.
In response to the negative phrases, attitudes, and Adversarial Coaching methods, some of our coaches, including myself, have started using more positive, yet realistic motivating techniques that reflect the Advocate Coaching model. These concepts should be reinforced by the athlete’s parents. Here are just some of the ways parents can and should motivate their younger athletes into becoming more confident sports practitioners:
1. I loved watching you play today and look forward to the next game.
2. How did you feel about your playing time and assignments on the field?
3. Did you have fun playing?
4. Did your coach give you anything to practice at home before next game?
While this are not an exhaustive list, these kind of questions can lead to a more motivated and confident player. Remember, we’re talking about 8-12yr olds here, and while there’s a need to correct improper play and attitudes, there is also a need to create an environment where the athlete can recognize their own mistakes and grow from them. With this age group its very important that they’re able to see that you, parents and coaches, are not the enemy but an advocate for their on and off field success. That kind of success starts young, needs to be disciplined, be grown, be motivated, and be encouraged beginning with family.
This brief overview is a taste of some of the ways we all can help grow that young athlete get better and enjoy the game. As a coach, or as a parent, it’s incredibly important that we seek the best for their development inside and out. This means teaching them sportsmanship as well as how to competitively play to succeed as they get the best from their abilities. Win at any cost is a tired hat and one that doesn’t actually generate players who love to play. Here at the Den we want all your young athletes to compete at their highest level and be able to have fun doing it. Having fun is an important part of growing up, physical education, and athletics. We want to see your athletes love to train in order to give their best on the field.
As an Advocate Coach my goal is to help young athletes through realistic, positive, and energetic discipline become the best he or she can be. The Advocate Coaching model puts the coach and parents on the same team, helping guide a younger athlete into becoming all he or she can be as they grow. For more reading and information, the PCA, or Positive Coaching Alliance has some great resources at http://www.positivecoach.org. Until next time, be disciplined, encourage each other, and come visit us at The Den!
Jairus Pascale is both an owner and a coach at The Den in Allen. He has a degree in Exercise Science from Biola University, and he is a level 2 certified Lacrosse Coach with 6 years of coaching experience. Jairus offers Sport Conditioning Camps for Young Athletes ages 9-15 at the Den to improve speed, agility, and power. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to train with Jairus!