How To Handle Being the Parent-Fan, Not the Parent-Coach

How To Handle Being the Parent-Fan, Not the Parent-Coach

As a former athlete, one of the toughest challenges I had involving sports happened when my children began to play.  When you play a sport, dedicate years and years to developing your skill, studying the game, and competing, you reach the point where you feel a sense of control over the outcome. Of course that outcome doesn’t always end the way you hoped and envisioned, but you generally have a good handle on the basics of the sport.

A total loss of control

When I quit playing, and my children began playing, I lost about 99.9% of the control I felt I had.  That was a tough adjustment.  Knowing and seeing the best play to be made at a particular moment, and witnessing something that did not look anything like that “best play”, sometimes got the best of me. Noticing a player wide open under the basket, but never receiving the ball.  Seeing a wide open running lane and the player running back the other way.  

I had no control over either.

Regaining some control
Although I played sports, I never envisioned myself as a coach at any level.  I finally succumbed when there was a shortage of coaches (volunteers), and I was one of the parents who had the available time and was willing.  Thus, my coaching “career” began. What I quickly learned was some of that control I had lost, was now regained as I was able to teach the players some of what I knew.  Of course, dribbling or running the wrong way didn’t end, but the fact that I had prepared them, reduced the times those things happened.  

My own need for control of the outcome was being pacified to a degree.  

I know, I know.  I need help!

Back to square one
Now, some eight years later, I have relinquished some of that control by deciding to no longer coach our oldest child.  I admit, my decision is based primarily due to the fact she plays a sport I have no real experience in.  In addition, for the first time, I am not coaching our 7-year old because of a schedule conflict with his team’s practice day.  So, I find myself again, out of control. Initially I went from athlete to parent-coach.  

Now I am going from parent-coach to parent-fan.  ZERO control!  I understand I have every “right” to give instructions to my child during games, but I have seen other parents do that, and it does not seem helpful.  It is distracting, and takes from the authority of the coach.  I’m guessing as an insurance policy to make sure I could not do that.  The last game, I was sick, with bronchitis, and couldn’t “bark” instructions even if I wanted to.

Embracing and enjoying it all
As I began to think about being on the sideline, or in the stands, I realized this is a challenge many parents face whether they are former athletes, former parent-coaches, or not.  Each parent wants their child and their child’s team to do well, to play their best, and to win.  Occasionally, even those who live by the “keep calm and carry on” motto can get caught up.  Some more caught up than others. If that is the case, how do you keep from getting caught up?  There are a few things to keep in mind, to best handle being a parent-fan, especially when coming from being a parent-coach, or former athlete.

Realize you have no control anyway
I thought I had control when I played, as well as while coaching.  In reality, I did not, and do not.  No matter how much I coach, teach, and prepare the kids, the decisions and plays they make are completely up to them.  I can influence, but control is out of my hands.

Understand it is perfectly okay to not control the outcome
That is one of the beauties of sports.  You never know how any given play or game will end.  Every team practices and prepares for a specific outcome, but we know every team does not get the outcome they prepared for.  That is fine, and that makes it fun.

Remember the game is about the kids playing the game
It amazes me how kids can play the game, by running the wrong way, shooting in the wrong basket, wrestling around well after the whistle blows and still have the time of their lives.  As well as when they get older, and wins, losses, and their performance matters more.  

Once they leave the game, they are on to the next thing.  It is not about them making the best play, it is about them.

Appreciate the fact that coaching can be stressful, but being a fan should not
Although I will coach our son’s next season, I am enjoying just showing up to the games and watching, as a fan.  No rosters to put together, drills to set up, or game plans to develop.  It is a lot of fun!  I cheer when good plays are made, say “oh!” when other plays are made, and get ready for my “GREAT game son!” comment and high-five after the game.

You are still your child’s #1 coach
Although, you may not be coaching this time around.  You are still the first and primary teacher and coach of your child.  Many times the “practices” and “games” with our family are some of the best.  Here you get to instruct and prepare them, and most importantly spend quality time with them doing something you all enjoy.

Question:  Have you made the adjustment from athlete to parent, or parent-coach to parent-fan?  How did you handle the adjustment?

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