In sports, athletes get a ton of credit (as they should). The burdens of physical training, mental preparation, and skill development are part of their daily regimen. The joys too, are often ‘owned’ by the athlete. Beyond the athlete, credit is often given to easily recognized individuals such as “coach”, the training staff, and teammates.
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However, parents are often marginalized (or worse, ignored) in the success of the athlete. As we are now 3 days in the new year, I encourage every athlete to acknowledge and celebrate the support s/he has received from parents. Parenting is much more than providing love & resources, it is the athlete's first experience in getting coached. At the National College Development Clinic, a college coach was discussing the athletic scholarship process and his own methods for evaluating the coachability of players. To paraphrase, here are the thoughts of the coach:
"When I am at a game and am observing prospective student-athlete recruits, I always look to see how the player interacts with parents before and after the game. Is the athlete respectful of his parents? Does he listen and accept the support and feedback his parents provide him? If I see negative behavior this tells me that the player might not respect my authority. If a player can yell at his own parents, what's going to keep him from yelling at me?"
While this recruiting approach makes sense on multiple levels, the most important lesson is that parents are not given the 'coaching' credit they deserve. College coaches understand that athletes first observe all the relevant 'mental' attributes of success right at home -- respect, teamwork, leadership, motivation, competitiveness are ALL initially nurtured at home. Every great athlete can tell you a story of how his or her home environment positively impacted on their development.
For 2011, I encourage every athlete to acknowledge the role her/his parents have in making them not only a good person, but a good athlete. I encourage coaches to work with and 'use' the parents to enable better athlete development.