Parenting from the stands

September 13th, 2016

Originally published by Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, September/October 2016.

Toward the end of an u14 girls’ soccer game, a father yelled to his daughter, “Don’t forget to have fun.” The comment stood out because it was the first positive comment from a parent during the entire game. I turned to another player standing near me, and asked, “How are you supposed to have fun when you are yelled at constantly?” She rolled her eyes and said, “Tell me about it.”  Read the rest of this entry »

The effect of mixed messages on player performance

February 23rd, 2016

Early in an u11 boys soccer tournament championship game, with his team trailing 1-0, a fullback went to take a goal kick. Up to this point, the goalie had taken the goal kicks, but he could not kick over the first line of defense, and the parents on the sideline near the goal kicks were anxious. The players sensed the anxiety and yelled at the biggest player, the fullback, to take the kick. Read the rest of this entry »

Parents and post-game feedback

May 3rd, 2015

This weekend was State Cup for soccer. Today, I was the assistant referee for an u15 girls soccer game, and I was in front of the parents. I have had both teams several times during the spring league, and I am familiar with the players. Early in the game, the better team scored a soft goal. Read the rest of this entry »

The overeager sports parent

October 10th, 2014

Originally published by Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, October 2014.

Early on a beautiful Saturday morning, I walked to the park to watch my friend’s six-year-old son play his Little League teeball game. Nobody kept score, and every player played in the field, changing positions in the field and the batting order in every inning. Half of the team batted in every inning regardless of the number of players who reached base or the outs recorded. The coach emphasized fun, and nobody yelled at the children. When the energy seemed low, the coaches led their teams in a call-and-response cheer. As long as children this young were going to play baseball, this appeared to be a league that kept everything in its proper perspective.  Read the rest of this entry »

Why is the coach always right?

December 19th, 2012

Nearly every day, on one message board or another, I read a forum posts complaining about parents or players. The general consensus from coaches is that they know who should be playing, and the parents and players do not. How do they know?  Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting through the youth sports experience

April 16th, 2012

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, March/April 2012.

Parents frequently ask me about pushing their child. They are unsure of the fine line between offering encouragement and opportunities and pushing an activity onto their child. When children begin organized athletics, the parent almost always makes the decision, as few five, six, or seven year-olds know what they want to do; at the same time, almost any kind of activity is interesting to a child at that age.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Generation of Wimps: The Product of Overparenting

December 16th, 2011

Over the last two seasons, as a rash of college players have transferred away from coaches with very good reputations (Mike Montgomery, Ben Howland, Roy Williams, etc.) despite receiving plenty of playing time (Gary Franklin from Cal, Jabari Brown from Oregon, etc.), people have searched for answers. What is wrong with this generation? What is wrong with the coaches? What are the parents teaching these young adults? Why is this happening? (Note: I am not against all transfers; I advised a player who I used to train to transfer. However, the rash of transfers, taken as a whole, seems to ask larger questions). Read the rest of this entry »

Does not Keeping Score Solve Anything?

September 10th, 2010

I turned on Two-and-a-Half-Men tonight, and the episode featured Jake playing soccer. Charlie sat down next to a mother at a game and said, “Where do you stand on this not keeping score thing?” The mother answered, “I think it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

In the next scene, Jake walks into their house with slumped shoulders while his dad said, “Nobody got creamed. Nobody won or lost.” Jake retorted, “Except us, 12-2.”

This is the problem with not keeping score: everyone keeps score, whether there is an official scoreboard or not. Everyone knows the winner and loser, especially in a 12-2 soccer game. Children are not dumb; you cannot hide the result from them or their parents.

Not keeping score misses the point. The scoreboard is not the problem; the problem is the way that the scoreboard makes us act. If the coach plays with a win-at-all costs, peak-by-Friday approach, the scoreboard makes no difference. However, if a coach takes a long term, process-oriented approach, the presence of a scoreboard does not change his coaching.

If we want to help children enjoy their initial sports’ experiences, ignore the scoreboard. Its presence or lack thereof will not determine a child’s enjoyment of the activity. As I wrote earlier this week, children view competition differently. They are not absorbed by the score until parents and coaches make such a big deal out of it that they have to hide the score. In many cases, this brings more attention to the scoreboard.

Rather than focus on the scoreboard, leagues should spend more time creating equal teams, as children do when picking teams on the playground. Next, if a league worries about blowouts, play each game like a mini-tournament: re-start the score each quarter.

Other ideas that would change the league’s culture more than worrying about the scoreboard would be to encourage coaches to work together; to run one practice per week as a group workout focused on skill development; to change teams more often; to alternate coaches based on strengths and weaknesses, so each teams learns from the strengths of each coach, not just one coach; to teach coaches about the Peak by Friday concept and its negative effect on youth player development; and more.

The scoreboard is a superficial change that changes very little. To make an impact, the changes need to go to the league’s foundation, focus on the league’s philosophy and change the coaches’ approach to their teams, winning, development and players’ motivations.

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

Overtraining Against the Law?

April 29th, 2010

A friend sent me a link to this article about a custody hearing involving a “Little League Dad.”

The father of two Long Island junior tennis prospects has been stripped of custody by a New York state judge who found their rigorous training schedule to be “overly burdensome, exhausting and completely unacceptable.”

The Cavallero brothers — Giancarlo, 10, and Jordy, 5 — were required to leave school early to spend six hours a day at tennis practice and play tournaments on the weekends.

But in a ruling last week, Acting Supreme Court Justice Norman St. George of Nassau County found the “grueling” training regimen had left the children “constantly tired, regularly late to school … and their tennis appears to be negatively impacted.”

On the other hand, I saw this video on Yahoo! Sports of MMA fighter Jens Pulver’s son Karson.

Look at the form on his squats! Sometimes, the early start is fun and games and encouraging an active lifestyle. However, sometimes dreams and ambitions lead to a loss of perspective. Sometimes, it is a fine line to walk between pushing too much and starting too early and just letting a child have fun.

Player Development and Information Overload

April 12th, 2010

Today’s Los Angeles Times features an article about promising young center DeAndre Jordan and his growing frustration. As starting center Chris Kaman explains:

“He’s got pretty solid hands and he’s aggressive. The thing I really like is his heart,” Kaman said. “He’s just a good guy. That’s gonna help him in the long run. He has a lot of people in his ear — everybody is talking to him and I can see how he gets frustrated and he’s just got to learn to deal with it.”

“I think he over-thinks it a little bit,” he said. “He definitely has to be a sponge to try to soak it all up as much as you can. There’s a lot of people talking to him, a lot of people are looking out for his best interests.

“No one is trying to hurt him — he has to realize that. He definitely has a bright future and needs to continue to work hard.”

Sometimes, even when everyone means well, the information overload is too much and actually causes mistakes or poor play.

As a high school AAU game yesterday, I listened to coaches yell constantly at the players, while parents in the stands often yelled conflicting messages. How can a player relax and perform when his father yells at him on every possession and his coach barks instruction without pause for the entire game?

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League