Alumni contributor and published author Mark Maguire has for a long time been interested in exploring the relationship between budding young baseball athletes and well-meaning parents who – in seeking to do the very best by their son or daughter – so often find themselves evaluating their own role and the advice that they might reasonably provide in the familial connection.
Mark has kindly provided us with a series of brief, provoking anecdotes that may or may not reflect elements of the exchanges between baseball parents and their children as all parties learn and hopefully grow together.
Following is Part Three of six instalments of "The Car Ride Home".
The car ride home is an experience that helps define a parent/child relationship. Here are six topics that have helped me improve myself, understand my son better and allow him to challenge himself to be the best athlete he can. This is your third ride sitting in the backseat of my car listening in on our relationship. And if you’re wondering… yes, he did agree to everything written.
How to stop dumping your stress on your kids.
Recently, I spoke to a group of baseball parents while their kids were beginning a Friday night winter program. I spoke about how our stress and anxiousness while watching them doesn’t decrease as they get older but only increases.
The player’s ages ranged from nine to twelve. Every player desired to be there to improve his or her skills.
Every parent desires to see their young athlete perform to the best of his or her ability and hopefully, just hopefully, go on and do something in their chosen sport.
My son is sixteen and he is now one of the young coaches on this Friday night instilling what he has learnt from the game. I told the parents when my son was at the age of twelve I had a chat with him about what he thinks of my yelling from the sideline giving him instruction and trying to inspire him to do better.
My son said bluntly, “Dad, it doesn’t help.” And he further went on to say that none of his teammates liked it when their parents called out. He was brutal in his appraisal and it sort of stunned me.
I thought I made a difference. I certainly did: the difference between my son enjoying the game or not; the difference between him learning from someone else without me interfering; the difference between him having his own pressures out there on the playing field and then also being loaded down with my stress that I unknowingly dumped on him.
That’s exactly what I was doing, unknowingly dumping my stress on him. In my excitement I believed I was helping and inspiring when I was only increasing stress and anxiety in him.
Fortunately, my son is not an anxious kid. Thankfully, because of his mum, he is calm and collected. I wanted to be a part of that calmness and give him a further chance to do well so I decided that day when my son told me, dad, it doesn’t help, to shut up and let him play without my interference from the side.
I asked the parents that first night of winter development to have that brave conversation with their child; ask them if they like all the yelling and instruction from the sideline. I told them there is enough pressure on our kids on the field without having to be burdened with our excitement issues and inability to shut up. *
Nothing gives me more pleasure now than when my son says to me, “Dad, you really helped.” Isn’t that what we all really want to hear from our kids one day. They have the rest of their lives to gain their own stresses without sharing ours inadvertently from the sideline or the car ride home.
* There is NO fine line between cheering and calling out instructions. Cheer your heart out; applaud your child’s effort. Even clap the opposition team. All your child needs to hear from you after the game is, ‘I enjoyed watching you play.’
(You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss your experience or dilemma. I’m always open to learning something new and I’m always open to giving time and thought to help)