Everyone in the stands knows Danielle is one of the best basketball guards among all middle schools in the region. The desire within Danielle to be the best in hoops may also have jumped over into the young girl’s overall attitude. At first, her parents paid little attention to the occasional verbal outburst at officials and other players on her team. However, the outward examples of her frustration are increasing and more noticeable to her coach, teammates and fans. What can be done to address a situation such as Danielle’s?
FIRST ON THE AGENDA
In his book, Whose Game is it, Anyway?, Dr. Richard Ginsburg devotes a chapter on the subject of emotional frustrations exhibited by participants in youth athletics. The author suggests parents should be very careful in their first approach to the situation. Do not make an immediate knee-jerk reaction. This can be difficult advice to follow as parents are themselves sometimes wrapped up in the game’s moment. Watching a child fail because of a referee’s decision or a mistake by the child’s teammate can cause a natural frustration for the parents as well. Ginsburg says it best, “The first reaction is no reaction.” In other words, parents need to take a deep breath and not add fuel to the fire.
REACTION BY THE COACH
After a child exhibits this frustration the parents must be prepared for what the athlete’s coach may do next. If it’s the first – or the second or the third – instance where this occurred, parents must accept a coach’s game-time decision. Whether the coach sits the child out for a few minutes, a quarter, or the rest of the game parents need to maintain their composure. Yelling from the stands will just make the matter worse. The time to address the coach’s reaction is not at the end of the game, either. Contact the coach the following day and set up a meeting to discuss the situation.
COMMUNICATING WITH THE CHILD
The advice from Ginsburg’s book is to take a ‘calm but firm’ approach with the young athlete. A good opening question may be as simple as, “What went through your mind to cause you to react in such a way?” Calmly asked it is immediately letting the child to explain his/her actions. Self-control is not an learned overnight.
“Without patience and willingness to provide explanations, setting firm limits can be meaningless and even destructive,” warns Ginsburg. In other words, parents need to have the open line of communication before determining what methods of correction to use. This is also where the meeting with the coach comes to play. Consultation between the coach and parents can generate an effective way to correct the displays of frustration.
AVOID FEELING ‘HELPLESS’
Whatever steps to correct a child’s temper and frustration during a sporting event are decided upon, it is extremely important for the parents not to lose sight of the desired end result. As in many other facets of raising children, the old saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ aptly fits. There may be ‘instant oatmeal’ but no one has figured out a way to package an ‘instant solution’ for a child’s emotions. If a child’s frustration bubbles over as a result of self-pressure it is going to take patience from parents and coaches in order for an effective change to occur.