Ten Commandments for Parents of Athletes

Parents play a critical role in a child’s success in any field. Certainly athletics is no different. But what can seem like the right thing to do is sometimes counterproductive. The following is an abbreviated list of Commandment’s for Parents of young athletes. These commandments are based upon the conditions which are most likely to allow your children to become healthy, successful competitors and people. No one wins all the time, nor would it be of any value if they did. Following the principles behind this list will help you to create the climate necessary for your child’s success.1) Thou shalt not make this about you. It is easy to lose yourself in the excitement of competition, to get caught up in old feelings of your own athletic glories and short-falls. This time, however, the moment belongs to your child. Don’t allow yourself to ruin his or her moment by projecting your own needs onto the situation.

2) Thou shalt not coach, motivate or bribe. You pay your money to a coach because he or she is qualified to do the job. Allow the coach to work effectively by granting him/her authority on the sport. Diving is a very technical sport, which should not be taught by those without specialized training. Your coach has worked hard to become an expert in this field, and parent’s should resist the temptation to throw their two cents in on technique. In addition, diving is unique in that all athletes must, with the help of their coaches, face and conquer considerable fear. The result is that coaches will form a very close bond with and understanding of your child, and this understanding gives the coach great insight into the motivation and discipline of your child. Finally, bribing a child to do a new trick seems harmless, but can effectively diminish the motivation that the coach strives to teach the athletes – internal motivation to achieve purely for the satisfaction of it, and not for material rewards.

3) Thou shalt love unconditionally. It is crucial that your child understands one thing above all else – that your love for him/her does not in any way hinge on his/her performance. There is already plenty of pressure in trying to get the dive right at the moment of the big meet. If you throw in a sense that “mom or dad will be mad if I blow it,” then failure is almost inevitable.

4) Thou shalt follow the same rules of sportsmanship as thy child. The best advice on sportsmanship is quite simple; “A champion takes victory and defeat in the same way.” Lead your child by example, and put a swift end to gloating and other forms of poor sportsmanship by showing that you won’t tolerate it in yourself or your child.

5) Thou shalt not compare nor divide. Comparing your child to other athletes on the team or in the meet is unhealthy and pointless. Success is a journey, not a destination. Every child will take a different path, will learn at a different speed, and will arrive at a different kind of success. Before you become concerned about who is outpacing your child, ask yourself “Is my kid having fun? Is he learning? Is this a positive thing for him?” If the answers are “yes,” you have nothing to worry about. This sort of comparison mindset leads to divisions within the team, and animosity among parents. Don’t fall into this trap.

6) Thou shalt take criticism straight to the coach. Any concerns or questions about the program should go straight to the coach. Discussing and complaining in the stands with other parents is a waste of your energy, and won’t fix the problem. It also may plant seeds of discontent in the parent group, which is bad for everyone. It is also helpful to remember that these things always seem to get back to the coach anyway, and the grapevine is a very inaccurate way to communicate. Help to improve the team by talking directly with the coach.

7) Thou shalt teach thy child to find the lessons in failure. Once again, success is a journey, and failure is a teacher. In life, we are taught the same lessons over and over until we get the message and learn the lesson. Diving is a sport that is made up of 90% failure. If we teach children to see failure as an opportunity for growth, we empower them for life.

8) Thou shalt help thy child to persevere. Because there is so much fear involved with diving, a child may wish to drop out of the sport rather than face the next new dive. This often occurs after a diver has taken time off at the end of the season. Children rarely understand the value of delayed gratification without guidance from an adult. Our culture is so preoccupied with instant gratification that it is even more critical to teach the value of hard work and sacrifice for greater rewards. Talk to the coach if you see your child becoming overwhelmed by fear, or becoming reluctant to go to practice. These are usually problems which can be solved through communication.

9) Thou shalt get thy child to workout on time. Success in diving depends on consistent practice habits over the entire year. Poor attendance leads to fear, frustration, crashing, and poor meet performances.

10) Enjoy the ride. Diving is a unique sport which can serve to teach your child many valuable life skills. Take time to share this unique experience with your child, and have some fun while you’re here!