This is a topic that has become quite popular on the internet and Facebook in the last few weeks. I have posted this comment on a few sites and Facebook groups and thought I would do a post here on my site to share it with you all.
There are several problems that occur when parents coach their players from the stands. Many parents truly believe that they are helping theirs players at a time that they need it most. The truth is however, it tends to hurt your athlete’s success way more than it helps.
Performance = Potential – Interference
This equation is an important key to achieving success in sport. If you as a parent want to help your athlete achieve their best performance, you need to help them play with as little interference as possible. As a parent, do you believe that offering instructions to your player as they step up to the plate or the free throw line, eliminates or causes interference?
When I work with parents of athletes on developing mental toughness, I teach parents to ask themselves this question. How does this help my athlete? Many find it eye opening when they come to the realization that their answer often is “IT DOESN’T!!” If it doesn’t help, it creates INTERFERENCE.
In order for an athlete to perform to their potential, they really need to play in the present, often referred to as playing in the zone, the flow or the present. What that means is they don’t focus on the past or worry about the future, but remain in the present. One of the best was to pull a player out of the present is to start offering them instructions from the stands or sidelines. How does that help your athlete? INTERFERENCE.
Here is another aspect of how coaching from the stands or sidelines pulls a player out of the game and typically causes them to play below their potential. Practice is for developing and coaching a player on the particulars of a skill, games are for executing those skills. When parents are coaching technical aspects from the stands, it actually takes the player’s focus out of the game. What I mean by that is that players initially learn and practice their skills using the conscious part of their brain. When an athlete is learning a skill, it always starts consciously, thinking of all the things that must happen to do it right. Practice, practice, practice and eventually the skills become automatic in their game. Enough practice and the skills become an unconscious action, where things just happen without having to think about it. Athletes will never perform their best when they have to think about what they are doing or not doing. An athlete that is coached from the stands or sidelines, or too much teaching in game situations by the coach makes the activity a conscious one instead of an automatic unconscious one. How does that help my athlete?
Interference comes from many places. Every athlete, at some point in their sporting life, is fighting their own negative thoughts and self doubt but is often topped off by their perception of inadequacy typically reinforced by parents actions and comments. Coaching from the stands and sidelines will always cause unnecessary interference. The number one thing that I see that creates massive amounts of interference in youth athletes is the fear of disappointing their parents. That is a whole other topic for another day.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Ken Ansell – Your Mental Toughness Trainer