Just Let 'Em Play
This may surprise some of you...but we coaches actually read a lot (okay...maybe not like "a lot," but we read "some"). We're currently reading and passing around the book "Just Let 'Em Play," by Dr. Andrew Jacobs (one of the top sports psychologists in the country and who works with the KC Royals), Jeff Montgomery (Royals Hall of Fame pitcher), and Peter Malone (USA National Team Swimming Coach). These authors are infinitely smarter than us, which is why as coaches we always preach that we teach/coach what is right, not just how we were taught.
One of the main points of the book, and the point we're focusing on for this week's "development" post, is that parents need to find the right balance for their kid between hard work and fun in order to achieve the most important focus for every athlete: LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT!!!!
This book really hammers home that, yes...there does need to be an element of fun / creativeness to keep kids interested in their sports development in the long run. Now that doesn't mean that every single practice needs to be game-oriented, or that coaches can't have high expectations for athletes, but it states through numerous examples and case studies, that if kids don't have an element of fun or family-centered trust being developed between athlete/coach/parents, they will burn out and quit, or will not give their best effort and ultimately their progress will become stagnant. And one of the foundational pillars of making things enjoyable for your youth wrestler is being a positive support for them. Win or lose.
This post, the book, and collage picture of Cameron (my son), is all to say, don't focus just on winning. Focus on their development. Make sure they are making friends and trying to improve every week. Make sure they love getting good grades and learning time management skills to get their homework done before practice. And make sure they know that being a good teammate and leader is more important than a youth state title. To all parents out there...it is over so dang fast!!! It feels like just yesterday my boy received his first pair of wrestling shoes at 5-years-old. Now he's just a few months away from turning 13-years-old and thinks he's cooler than me (a lie), but also, sadly, he doesn't have a lot of time left with the club. So enjoy this journey and be the amazingly supportive parent that your kid needs so that someday they'll look back fondly on your youth sports adventure together.
Good luck out there.