Georgia Little League

PCA Parents

The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) Way:

We are emotionally committed to achieving our mission of transforming the culture of youth sports. We are professional in all that we do in support of our mission.
We recognize that effort and enjoyment tend to go hand in hand. We go the extra mile for a partner.
We flush our mistakes, learn from them, and go on. We continue to innovate.
We Debate and Commit rather than smooth and avoid. We fill each other's Emotional Tanks.

The Big Picture

Issues such as playing time and what position your child plays pale in comparison to the Big Picture: What life lessons can your child take from sports? How can you, as a parent, help your child process those life lessons? How can you and your children's coaches seize the endless procession of Teachable Moments inherent in sports?

Even when facing an unpleasant playing time issue, life lessons abound, such as the need to persist even against long odds, how to be a team player and recognizing that you are -- and will remain -- a part of something bigger than yourself. Looking often at the Big Picture keeps things in perspective for you and your child.

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Unconditional Support

Perhaps the biggest fear of most youth athletes is making a mistake in a crucial situation that hurts the team. Standing by your children in this situation is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate your unconditional love and support.

Show them that the mistake is no big deal in the grand scheme of things by flashing a thumbs-up, smiling, and saying, "That's okay, don't let it stop you. You'll get the next one." If you or your child's coach has established a Mistake Ritual, such as the "no sweat" gesture of flicking your brow, use that ritual as a subtle reminder to get rid of the mistake and ready for the next play.

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The 100-Point Exercise

One way to enhance the parent-athlete relationship (and the overall parent-child relationship!) is to explore your child's youth sports goals, as well as your own. Take time to explicitly examine these sets of goals, compare them, and then ensure that your behavior is consistent with achieving those goals:

  • Identify your top five goals for your child's sports experience.
  • Assign points to each goal, in terms of their importance to you, so the total points equal 100.
  • Commit to a plan for using words and actions, on and off the playing fields, that contribute to achieving the goals you've identified.

The final piece to the puzzle? If your children are old enough, ask them to do the exercise. The similarities and differences you discover will serve as talking points for wonderful conversations that will help all of you get the most from the youth sports experience!

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Coach-Parent Relationship

The following guidelines can contribute to a Coach/Parent Partnership that help your child have the best possible sports experience:

  • Recognize the commitment the coach has made: Remember that the coach spends many hours of preparation beyond practices and games.
  • Let the coach coach: It can be confusing for a child to hear someone other than the coach yelling instructions.
  • Don't put the player in the middle: It's all too common for parents to share their disapproval of a coach with their children. Seek a meeting with coaches if you think they aren't handling a situation well.

Observe a "cooling off" period: Emotions often run high -- wait a day or two before discussing your frustrations with the coach.

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Parents' Perspective

Parents can help their children get the most out of youth sports by looking beyond the scoreboard. A youth sports experience put into perspective, with plenty of unconditional love and a focus on life lessons, can equip children with much of what they need to succeed in life.

Reward players for their hard work and commitment, no matter what the results, and they will grow into hard-working, committed young men and women. An opportunity for you to teach that lesson, and for your children to learn it, is contained within just about every moment of every practice and game.

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Coaching Your Own Child

Coaching your own child is among the greatest challenges and most rewarding experiences you may ever have. A key challenge is avoiding favoritism (and, conversely, being overly critical to avoid the impression of favoritism). Two techniques can help.

One is to have an assistant coach work more with your child than you do. Another, especially for younger children, is to wear a coaching hat at practice and games and to remind your child that when you are wearing your coaching hat, you are more coach than parent.

Done well, coaching your child can create deep bonds with your children, because the emotional intensity of sports reveals and shapes aspects of character that you and your children otherwise might never see in each other.

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Parents Approaching a Coach

It is natural for sports parents to occasionally wonder about issues such as playing time, position, or the tone a coach takes with their children. Sometimes that calls for the parent to approach the coach to discuss the matter.

Ideally, you would have made early, positive contact with that coach, introducing yourself at season's start, offering to help the team out however you can, and conveying the excitement your son or daughter has for the sport. That way, if an issue arises, you are not a stranger to the coach and there is a basis for discussion.

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Avoid the Dreaded PGA (Post-Game Analysis)

In PCA's Second-Goal Parent® workshops, we urge parents to avoid the dreaded PGA (Post-Game Analysis). Resist the temptation to break down the game or individual plays immediately after the game or even on that car ride home. Your emotions, and your children's, are still running hot.

Usually, it's best to let your son or daughter raise the topic. If, after giving your children some space, you feel the need to seize a teachable moment, do so in the context of providing unconditional love and support, rather than a technique critique.

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Seizing Teachable Moments

One of the key values of youth sports is what PCA Founder Jim Thompson likes to call "the endless procession of teachable moments."

As a youth sports parent, there may be nothing more important you do than to recognize those moments and use them to spur your children's overall growth through their youth sports experience.

Very few will go on to play in high school, let alone college or professional sports, but all can benefit greatly if they learn through youth sports the life lessons they'll need to succeed in any endeavor.

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Lessons From Losing

It is important for youth athletes to know how to both win and lose gracefully. They almost certainly will have both experiences and can often learn more from losing than from winning.

For example, a loss can awaken your child to flaws in his or her game that otherwise may have gone overlooked. Losing also can help renew a commitment to mastering a sport, and it can help players recognize any lapse in intensity of their practice, conditioning or mental focus. Most importantly, losing in sports can help children deal with the inevitable setbacks they will face in other aspects of life.

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Coach-Parent Relationship

Three steps to developing a great Coach-Parent Partnership:

  • Recognize the commitment the coach has made. The coach who puts in long hours for little or no pay deserves your support.
  • Make early positive contact with the coach. Soon after learning who will coach your child, contact the coach and offer to help the team however you can. Getting to know the coach early makes it easier to resolve any issues that may arise later.

Fill the coach's Emotional Tank. When the coach does something you like, let him or her know. Too often, coaches only hear from parents who have complaints.