When parents get too involved in their child’s sport
BY BREANN DOTSTRY
OU News Bureau
On a “Dr. Phil” show earlier this month, the psychiatrist turned the spotlight on parents who are overly involved in their child’s sports.
Kia, a mother whose out-of-control behavior got her banned from her daughter’s practices, told Dr. Phil that other parents do not sit near her or speak to her at games. She said she thinks her daughter’s coaches are scared of her.
While realizing she’s too involved, the mom said she wouldn’t stop — even if her daughter asked — because she wants her daughter to be perfect.
Involved parents such as Kia are no surprise to metro Detroit coaches Jamie Baker and Lisa Sanford. They agree these parents can be a problem for coaches, players and other parents.
“I start every season with a meeting for the players as well as the parents,” Baker said.
Baker tells parents that there are four options: be a parent, a coach, a referee or a player — and they can pick only one.
Sanford and Baker describe the best parents as those who help with fundraising, concessions, posters, and travel and hotel arrangements for tournaments — and who cheer loudly for the girls.
Then there are the other parents.
“The parents that get too involved are the ones that expect their kids to play in college,” Baker said. “Not only to play in college but to get a scholarship. These, in my opinion, are the worst parents.”
She continued, “They are putting a lot of pressure on the kids, when most of the time it seems that this is the parents’ goal for their child and not what the athlete actually wants.”
Both coaches said that when a parent becomes involved it can affect the child. The athlete becomes distracted and more focused on the issue the parents have created.
Former Oakland University athlete Stacey Farrell, a member of the OU women’s basketball team, has played 12 years of competitive basketball.
“Some of the parents on my high school and college team were too involved with what was going on with the team,” Farrell said. “The parents that were overly involved had a closer relationship to my coaches, which affected their daughters’ playing time and relationship with the coaches, as well.”
When parents become too involved and the coach needs help, the athletic director steps in.
David Ledbetter, Henry Ford II High School’s athletic director, said the best way to avoid parental problems is to be proactive and have open communication.
Ledbetter said the best way to avoid situations like this is to let players and parents know before the start of the season what their roles on the team will be.
“I prefer to let the coaches handle situations with parents first, but if there is ever a time that a parent doesn’t feel that the situation is being handled the best way possible with the coach, then I will step in,” Ledbetter said.
Sanford and Baker agreed that playing time is behind many problems with parents.
Sanford said a parent once said to her, “Don’t you think it is quite unfair for a senior player to go to practice every day and not even start? Sounds like you need a lesson in fair play.”
When parents get too involved the athlete suffers and playing is no longer fun for them. Baker said she resigned because too many overly involved parents took the fun out of the game.
An irate mother once emailed Baker, accusing her of breaking down her daughter’s confidence by playing favorites and by using other players. The mother offered comments about other players, and gave suggestions about how to run the team and whom to play.
She wrote: “You are the coach. You should decide who serves and when, who plays and when based on the need for the team to be successful. …”
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