I love attending the games of the children that I coach.  The most important reason I do this is to support them and demonstrate to them that they are important to me.  The other reason I love going to games is it gives me a chance to connect with parents and find out the “little things” about their children.  This allows me to get to know the kids even better and it serves to reinforce our connection. 

One of the most important aspects of coaching young people is communication.  If you can earn the trust of a child they are more open to sharing things that may be going on in their lives that they are having a tough time dealing with and need someone to talk them through it.  A kid may be having a tough time at a workout and it “appears” he is being lazy but because of the trust we have built I learned that he just broke up with his girlfriend and has to take a college entrance exam the next morning.  To us we may think that’s nothing but to a teen that hasn’t fully developed mentally and emotionally this is a very big deal.  If I didn’t know this and started getting on his case I would have added to his burden and likely crushed any chance to develop a deeper bond.  As parents you are always available for your children and encourage them to come to you with anything that is on their minds but let’s face it, and I speak from experience, kids just feel their parents won’t understand.

My parents were always there for me if I needed anything but for whatever reason, I have yet to figure this out, I just felt like they didn’t get me or what was going on in my life.  It finally dawned on me in my twenties that my parents knew exactly what was going on in my life.  It took a while but I finally realized that my parents weren’t holding me back or being overly strict they were just preparing me for life as a young adult.

As a teenager you often feel lost and confused and as frustrating as that may become to parents we just don’t seem to realize what a tremendous resource you really are.  So now as someone who spends a lot of time with children of varying personalities I sympathize with parents as they attempt to navigate the relationships with their children.  I truly value the importance of the “little things” you share about your children.

The third reason I love to attend the games is because I get to see them in action and it provides a live action assessment of how they are applying the skills we have been developing in our training.

That said I heard an interesting story after chatting with a father of a boy that I coach.  The son attended a state play-off basketball game in East Lansing and the father happened to see his son seated in the stands across the gym.   After a closer look the father realized his son was sitting next to and chatting with Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo.  For most young athletes in our state it would be a thrill to sit and chat with one of the best coaches not only in the state but the nation as well.  There was one part of their conversation that stood out to me after his father retold it to me.   Izzo asked the young man if he played sports and the boy said yes that he played baseball and football but decided against playing basketball this season.

Izzo seemed a bit taken a back by the comment and asked the boy why he decided not to play?  The boys said he likely wouldn’t play as much as he did last season in addition to that he wanted to devote more time to lifting for football.  Izzo explained that the best thing he could have done to improve, as a football player was to play basketball to develop his overall athleticism with qualities such as agility and conditioning.

The next day I read about a former Detroit Tiger and his work with inner city kids.  This story also delivered a key message along the same lines mentioned by Coach Izzo.  Ike Blessitt who played for the Tiger in the early 70’s, is attempting to reach out to children who live in Detroit where baseball’s popularity has decreased significantly in the last 20 years or so.  “I want to get kids back out playing baseball again because it’s such a wonderful game that teaches you so much,” Blessitt said.   I couldn’t agree more in fact I wrote about it a few weeks ago but that’s a story for another day.  The relevant comment that Mr. Blessitt made to this line of discussion is as follows:

“When I was young, I played four different sports.  These coaches are more concerned now with building powerhouse programs.  They’re telling kids they can’t play any other sports even if the kid really wants to.”

The high level coaches and athletes all seem to understand that long term multi-dimensional athleticism is the key to maximizing athletic potential.  Sport specialization may develop elite 12 year-olds (whatever that means) but it usually stops there and maximum athletic potential is never attained because the foundation is to narrow.  These are merely two more examples but if you have followed my writing for any length of time you know that most college and pro coaches, recruiters and scouts prioritize athleticism first and foremost. The kids with overall athleticism provide them with the raw material they need to develop sport champions.

It should be stated that maximizing your child’s athletic potential might not be a priority for you or them as you may place a greater emphasis on academics and/or service as an example.  In my mind this should be the emphasis in all cases with sport playing a support role.  However, science has clearly demonstrated that being physically fit has a tremendously positive correlation to improved academic and emotional health as well.  The best thing we can do as parents and coaches is to encourage kids to explore a variety of movement based activities and sports. These global movement experiences will help them maximize their talent on the field of play and it will also give them a boost in the game of life as well.