Monday, June 29, 2015

At the Moment of Truth

In his book The Matheny Manifesto – A YoungManager’s Old School Views on Success in Sport and Life former big leaguer and now manager Mike Matheny talks about parents and their relationship to their kids in youth sports. We are interested this week particularly in the section about how to help your youngster at a competition.
It seems that many parents feel that if they aren’t vocal their kids think they don’t care. Think about this for a second. In Little League (what Matheny is writing about) the kid gets up to the plate and is trying to do something that is incredibly difficult; namely hit a round object with a round object and make the ball stay within the field of play. This is enormously difficult. Think not? Go to a batting cage one day and try it yourself. And just as the player steps to the plate his parent (s) yells out loudly enough for everyone to hear, “Come on son, you can do it, get the team a hit.” Talk about pressure. In the big leagues the average player fails 7.5 times out of 10. If you fail only 7 times you get a contract worth millions of dollars and a decent shot at the Hall Of Fame.
Your swimmer stands on the block, readying herself for the race. She is about 3 feet taller than when she walks around the deck, or your house. She is all alone with that ribbon of blue in front of her. She is getting ready to do something she has not ever done before – swim a lifetime best – and just in that moment after the whistle and before the horn hardly a heat begins without some parent – or coach – yelling encouragement, for everyone to hear, using her name. Talk about stressful…we work diligently to keep words of encouragement quiet, private and usually not just before the start. Rarely will you see us behind the blocks, encouraging our swimmers. We only end up distracting them. At development, early season meets, yes, sometimes for specific instructions on the process…never about the result.
There is no coach behind the blocks at the Olympic Games.
Ask yourself, if you were getting ready to close that big deal and your spouse or young one stood in the doorway at your office as you were dialing the call energetically pumping you up with a “Come on, you can do this!” how you’d feel…totally distracted perhaps, definitely wondering what the heck was going on and perhaps a feeling of “Please, just go away. I know you mean well but you are not actually helping me here.”
Kids need and deserve our blessing and encouragement. We need to find out how to show them both on a regular basis. Perhaps a good starting point would be to ask them the question, “At a meet what can I do – or not do – that helps you the most?” We are willing to bet a house payment that it won’t be, “call my name when I climb on the block” or “stand at the end of my lane and tell me to race or kick harder.” We will double that bet when it comes to running up and down the pool beside my lane and quadruple that when I’m in an end lane.
We recently asked our swimmers and parents to fill out an anonymous survey looking for all kinds of feedback on our team, coaching, culture and growth. We are very pleased to note that NBA has several enlightened parents…see their comments below.
“Foster more independence; Foster more independence; Foster more independence (i.e. back off)
More communication between parent and coach to make sure we are all on the same page.
Make him or let him own his own process and whatever outcome that produces
Never ever ever try to coach her in any aspect of swimming. Keep my trap shut. Keep my trap shut. Keep my trap shut.”

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