What Do Parents Want From Sports?

Training children to master athletic skill is certainly important. However, we need to place an equal importance on training that develops the entire student athlete; athletic values.

For more than twenty years we have been interviewing players and parents during orientation meetings as they enter our training program. This is a key moment in our business; we discover what our customers want. You might suggest that the player, not the parent, is actually the customer. That is generally true in the advanced teenage player. At that age they have the experience and capability to determine the skills they need to compete. The younger ones are there only because mom or dad said, 'Get in the car."

So what do parents want from sports

Trophies for their home, bragging rights in the office and neighborhood, a vicarious reliving of their own childhood, providing a social network for mom and dad? How about — keeping the child so busy he stays out of trouble and off of drugs? What about an investment towards an athletic scholarship or pure and simple entertainment? Quite frankly, all are true in various families and in moderation quite reasonable and understandable.

We know baseball, but the following baseball stats could easily apply to almost any sport. Nationwide, just 4 percent of little leaguers will be on their high school baseball team in 12th grade. Four percent of those students will play college baseball, and 4 percent of those student athletes will move on to pro ball. Although not knowing the actual numbers, most parents realize this. They don’t expect a professional athlete. Kids? Well, I don’t think I’ve ever met a player that when asked why he played didn’t include "it’s fun" in his top two answers.

Then what is the real purpose of amateur sports? Most parents will indicate —athletic values and leadership skills. Exactly how does that happen? As a culture, we expect student athletes will become leaders by merely participating in sports. 

Really? How does that plan work in your own careers, Mom and Dad?

Our children are members of the information age, the knowledge age. They tap into technology and access information like getting a glass of water. They not only want to know how, they want to know why.

They have little or no respect for adults who can’t answer the question or bluff them with intimidation.

Teaching athletic leadership is perhaps our biggest challenge in skill development. We need to do more than identify the prettiest, the biggest, most handsome, most talented performer and anoint them as captain. We need to inform, inspire, educate, and provide opportunity. In sports there are only two choices: become a leader or a follower. Either choice is valid. Not everyone can or wants to become a leader. But a good leader must first become a good follower. And a good follower must choose a good leader. Either choice requires a vital understanding of leadership and integrity.

As my good friend sports psychologist Dr. Tom Hanson says in his new book PLAY BIG, sports are enjoyable because we intentionally put obstacles in our path. Overcoming obstacles is challenging — it’s fun. Sports attract young people who are comfortable making decisions. Every game requires them to accept accountability. We admire and respect that leadership trait in them.

Training children to master athletic skill is certainly important. However, we need to place an equal importance on training that develops the entire student athlete; athletic values. As educators, whether professional or volunteer, we must realize the value of our mentoring may not be judged in the short term. But we all must recognize our challenge - our joint responsibility - one day in the not so distant future, today’s students will be in the stands …. reading articles like this.

Contact John at John@Pinkman.us and follow PinkmanBaseball.com on Facebook

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Reena Elizabeth January 24, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I'm not a parent (yet) but I can remember what I wanted out of sports as a child and teen and I have a general idea of what I want from sports for my future kids: Keep them busy; become well-rounded; make new friends; learn to respect their elders; understand the concepts of team work, leadership, and hard work; learn how to win ... and lose; understand the concept of practice makes perfect; and SO much more.
John Pinkman January 26, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Sounds like you are well prepared for the task (life long) of parenting. It has been my experience that the trick is to stand by your beliefs, especailly when confronted with teenage and athletic parent social pressures. Clearly men and women have different expectations. Both should learn from the other; which, by the way, is the subject of a great article. Thanks!


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