Home » Team of Experts Channel » Dr. Keith Wilson, MSW, D. Div. » Performance Parenting » Behaving On Youth Sports Sideline: Parent Training Needed?

Behaving On Youth Sports Sideline: Parent Training Needed?

Parents want to be good sports parents

Parents in the standsI believe we all want to be good parents. We encourage our children's participation in sports because we believe they (and us) benefit through their involvement in the group experience. We want to believe that our attendance and support helps our children play better on the field. Most of us want what is best for our children on the athletic field. We want a positive environment that teaches the values of positive sportsmanship. We want to be able to go to the field or court each week and anticipate having a fun time watching our children play.

Unfortunately, this isn't always what happens. Many of us are not adequately equipped to handle the pressure of being on the sidelines of an intense game. Parents who get caught up in the "Intensity Web" lose their sensibilities. Such intensity can result in embarrassing parental behavior with long-lasting, negative consequences.

Parent training, El Paso style

Not long ago, I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker at an exciting new parent training program in my hometown of El Paso, Texas which parents must complete in order for their children to participate in city-sponsored sports.

2700 parents went through our first four-hour training program. Not all parents were happy to be there at the beginning, but the vast majority left the program better educated and determined to make the football sideline a happier, more enjoyable and healthier place to be. The program is already having a positive impact on sideline behavior.

The program will continue throughout the sport calendar to include parents of youth athletes in basketball, baseball and softball. We expect that in the first year we will end up training 10,000 parents. In future columns, I will share information about the program and what's working, what's not.

Performance consultant and psychotherapist

I bring to this column 12 years of experience as a psychotherapist in private practice in El Paso. In my practice I have helped numerous parents and youngsters learn better communication skills and ways of managing their emotions. Helping people work through their personal problems also enhances their enjoyment of and performance in life.

Over the past 5 years, I've enhanced and re-defined my clinical skills in order to assist athletes to perform better on the field. As athletes are better able to maintain their focus and concentration, their performance naturally improves. I have developed a system called "Performance Hypnosis" to help athletes improve their focus and concentration skills. As athletes learn to control nervousness and anxiety, they play closer to their optimum levels of ability.

I have had the opportunity to teach these skills to professionals in golf, tennis and baseball. Most of my work, however, has been in teaching these skills to high school and amateur golfers, tennis and soccer players, track and field athletes, swimmers, weightlifters and cheerleaders. Future columns will impart some of the techniques I teach athletes.

Parent and coach

Probably the most important perspective I bring to this column is as a sport parent and soccer coach. My two children are high school athletes who have been involved in youth sports since they were 4 years old. I have participated in all kinds of teams and leagues, all designed to help kids have fun and develop their athletic skills. Like many of you, I have had some very enjoyable sideline experiences, but I have also seen some terrible sport parenting.

Focus of column

I believe that while parents often know the right thing to do on the sideline, we don't know how to handle the excitement and anxiety of being a sport parent. As a result, too many of us make decisions and say things we normally wouldn't do under less stressful conditions.

I will present practical ideas for making the sidelines more enjoyable. I will also challenge you to clarify the values you hope to impart to your children while you actively support them on the sidelines.

I am proud to be part of the MomsTeam.com "team." Together, I am confident that we can, through education and the sharing of ideas, create a more positive and healthy sideline environment that will not only make youth sports safer, saner and less stressful for all of us as parents, but, just as importantly, put the fun back in youth sports for our children as well. I look forward to sharing my ideas with you and to your input, comments and questions.