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And It Begins Again

August 14, 2018
By Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

Since I returned to write on the pages of The Reporter and The Democrat back in October of 1991, the start of each school year's athletic programs has always stirred something inside me. For the student athletes, the second week of August means their school year has basically started, with practices for football, volleyball and cross country, and in some districts, Dance squads and Show Choirs are also gathering for pre-season camps and rehearsals.

With that thought in mind, many will begin to think about Friday night football, volleyball matches and cross country meets, as well as other events. While such events serve as a valuable part of our social lives, they are also teaching moments for the participants. Unfortunately, there are times in any event, when a poor decision or choice, or thoughtless words can turn that positive teaching experience into the opposite.

A while back, I came across a piece I'd like to share in advance of the coming school year - Five Signs of a Nightmare Sports Parent:

Overemphasizing sports at the expense of Sportsmanship: The best athletes keep their emotions in check and perform at an even keel, win or lose. Parents who don't do the same are sending the wrong message. Being encouraging is paramount always.

Having Different Goals than your child: Sit and talk with your child, list what you want to see from them, and have them do the same. Lists that differ greatly are not good. Kids want to have fun, be with their friends, improve their skills. Parents who focus on getting a scholarship and full ride are putting too much pressure on their child - something that players don't relish.

Treating your child differently after a loss than after a win: The final score is not the end-all. Knowing that the child gave their all and tried should be the focus for parents, win or lose. As mentioned before, the idea is to always be positive and supportive of the child, not negative and angry.

Undermining the Coach: A young athlete needs to hear a single instructional voice in a game. The coach is that individual, A player who ignores the coach and follows the direction of a parent instead has turned their back on their team. Or, the athlete becomes embarrassed by outbursts of a voice they know, become distracted and cannot give their best effort. And, on the way home after a contest, a parent second-guessing a coach also underminds the concept of a team working in unison for a common goal. In short, let the players play, let the officials officiate and let the coaches coach.

Parents trying to live their own dreams through their child: Sadly, there are those parents who will take all the credit if their son or daughter has an exceptional effort in a contest, "I taught them everything they know." Although a parent may have had their share of success in their school years, it is the child's turn to shine. Let them enjoy the spotlight, be proud of what they have achieved. If you are depressed and feel the child let you down, you must remember you have no control over the outcome and most importantly, you weren't out their playing yourself.

Granted, there are lots of negatives along these lines that unfortunately, I've seen first-hand over 20-plus years in all sports. I've heard parents rip into a child for missing a tackle, or missing a shot, and I've seen the child crumble, because, first, they know they made a mistake, and when they need the understanding and reassurance that life goes on and they'll learn from it. And most importantly, that their parents support them without question.

I was embarrassed on more than one occasion to hear a parent rip a child who was so devastated by the tongue lashing, they quit the sport the next day and never returned, despite being a very gifted and talented player.

The moral of all this is simple - Everyone, from player to coach to parent and fan, must remember that this is an educational experience first, entertainment second. To treat any event in any other way is a disservice to our youth.

In a time riddled with negativity, let us all work together to try and promote something positive and beneficial for all of us - participants and fans alike.



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