Parents love their children and want the best for them. Sometimes on the athletic field, this manifests in the parents screaming at their children from the sidelines. We previously discussed that this "coaching" from the stands brings confusion and negativity to the child.
If you asked the child if they like their parents barking instruction at them, what would they say?
If you asked the coach if they liked parents telling the players what to do, what would they say?
If you asked the refs, umpires, officials, if they enjoyed being told they are wrong with every play or call, what would they say?
And, most often and amazingly, if you asked the parents themselves after the game, were they pleased with their own behavior and experience at the game, what would they say?
So, if nobody involved finds this behavior positive, good, or effective, then why is it so prevalent in sports today?
"Why" #1: The Power of Love / Acceptance
People do crazy things when it comes to love. And who does a parent love more than their children? Transplant this sacrificial, crazy parent love to an athletic field and you have a recipe for emotional disaster.
Along with a deep love for their child, there is a parental motivation to protect children from pain. Many parents experienced painful moments in their own sports careers. Or parents might not have been very good at sports and know what it was like to not be the best, or even the worst on the team and made fun of by others, etc. The last thing parents want is for their children to experience the pain of failure. Parents often coach from the stands in an attempt to prevent their children from making the same mistakes. A parent's past history can override logical thinking. The desire to protect from pain is not wrong, but it is not always the most effective parenting plan. Deep character is often formed when children are not the best at something and when they feel the pain of their mistakes. The freedom to fail opens the door to creativity and development.
“Why” #2: Go/Fight/Win
Today’s society is all about being the best. Our egos will have it no other way. The nicest car or clothes, biggest house, best vacation, finest school, most prestigious job title, and of course, the best children. And if you don’t think this is true, go on social media. It is full of the finest food, biggest engagement rings, world’s best destinations, and athletic championships. It’s not the complete picture of life, but a highlight reel. All of this ultimately ripples to one of the most competitive venues, athletics. Parents want their child to be the "star" athlete, and at the very least, to not look foolish on the field. This drive pushes parents to coach from the stands in hopes of helping their child be the best. This sideline coaching in an effort to "win" often overrides what is actually best for the child.
A (not the) Solution
We spent a lot of time diving into the What’s and Why’s of a parent coaching from the sidelines. We concluded much of our undesirable behavior is driven by the love for our child. But is that really what love is? Let’s really understand love, by the author of love Himself.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 Love is patient and kind, love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. Love never fails.
Love in life and athletics is positive and encouraging. Love is inspiring and contagious. Love is an encouraging word. Love is a thumbs up. Love is a smile on your face and a hug regardless of the performance or score. Love never fails.
As parents, how can we live out God's definition of love from the sidelines?
Stop: Just freeze and resist the temptation to do or say anything contradictory to what you know to be true about God's definition of love.
Look: Pay attention to negative behaviors in the stands and don't let that be you. Look around for positive, encouraging behaviors to emulate. Encouragement from the stands is contagious.
Listen: Similarly, hear the sounds around you. You might be alarmed at what you hear. Seek out the positive, encouraging words of others. If hard to find, then be the one to start the movement.
Think before you speak: Give your brain time to assess the situation. A brief moment allows the brain the time to engage and reverse the paradigm of an emotional reaction.
As a finishing touch to getting love right, ask what would your child want? What response, action, words, or behavior would make your child respond in a positive manor? Those are the buttons to be pushed, for none of us really want to see the opposite. Unconditional love provides freedom to be cherished on and off the court.
So, the next time you find yourself at a sporting event . . . Stop, look, listen and marvel at what God has blessed you with as you transform the athletic experience for your family and sports community . . . it’s a beautiful thing.