Written by: Daniel Moffatt Martin, Head Performance Coach

When working with the next generation of future champions, one major factor to consider is the relationship the parents have with their child in their sport.

It has been something I have personally witnessed over the years, from a very positive perspective; where the child is
guided, encouraged and supported to make whichever decision he or she felt strongest towards. And, on the other side of that, I have also witnessed very negative situations in which the child has been pushed far beyond their personal limit in hopes to achieve a great level of success, resulting in very poor health conditions, burnout and unnecessary injuries for the
young athlete.

As coaches, our role is to guide, educate and mentor young athletes to show them the progressive pathway to achieving success in whatever their personal sporting goals are. When dealing with young athletes, we must endeavour to work in a unified partnership with the parents to ensure the best environment is always created for the athletes during training and competition. This means that the coach, parent and athlete all have to have the same goals in mind to work as a team for the best outcome possible, and this system only works when all parties have the same vision.

The unfortunate circumstance I see too often is when the parents vision stems far beyond the child’s vision. To give an example, the parents are striving for a gold medal at the Olympics, and the only personal goal that the young athlete has is to make the school basketball team so that they can play with their friends. You can see that there is a huge gap between what the child wants and what the parents want.

What we as coaches begin to see is the young athlete is booked into training sessions every day, weekend camps, holiday camps and playing every single weekend. The athlete begins to lose engagement with their sport and training and stops having fun.

Even worse they may start to experience injuries that are completely unnecessary and detrimental to their development.

Eventually the young athlete makes the decision that they don’t want to play anymore or they are too injured to continue playing the sport they once loved.

As coaches and parents we must always continue to remind ourselves that it is not about us.

Our role is to support the young athlete and keep creating an environment that reflects the level of their commitment. If the child has hopes of progressing to the highest level in their sport across the world, then we will guide them slowly and progressively in that direction. If the child’s only hope is to make the school team, then we will create the environment that helps them achieve that goal. Either way the fun element should always be present!

We must always strive to make sure the environments we provide for our young athletes are aligned with their goals. As they grow and progress in their sport, we must stay connected with them and keep asking the right questions. Instead of always asking “Do you still want this?” (as they will keep telling you what you want to hear). Try asking them “Are you still having fun? What do you want to achieve?” This is the key to their long term success, because when we strip back all the layers……. Fun is often why they started in the first place.