Top athletes are often branded as inappropriate role models for our kids. Sex, booze, and violence are all-too-common transgressions in the world of professional sports. However, the spotlight is rarely thrown upon the coach as an influential role model. We can be under no illusion that professional coaches also provide a powerful influence in the lives of our youth sport coaches, and their young athletes. This is even more so when the transgressor is one of the world’s top coaches such as Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson.
In Australia we have 1.15 million people involved in coaching sport. Each of these people plays an important and influential role in lives of their athletes. Their behaviour has the potential to impact a generation of young people involved in youth sport. In any one year, we can expect over 60% of children aged between 5 and 14 years to participate in organised youth sports. Over many years, this can be expected to rise significantly. Therefore, the behaviour, expectations and attitude of our coaches are a powerful influence upon the development of a generation of young people.
The question is; where do our coaches learn how to behave? Our coaching courses neglect interpersonal and social components in favour of teaching technical and tactical skills to junior coaches. Coaches are therefore left to seek out their own information in terms of appropriate behaviour. The easiest place to get this is from TV, and what we learn of Messrs Mourinho and Ferguson. So while-ever Mr Mourinho is being kicked out of the game, and while he continues to chastise referees, so will our junior coaches (not to mention that those coaches who blame referees for poor performances will never be able to improve their athletes performance).
Providing an appropriate role model is just one component of effective coaching. However, it is a powerful one. Youth sports coaches take note – provide our youth with examples of moral decision-making, de-emphasise winning in favour of technical and tactical improvement, and model appropriate interpersonal relationships. Your athletes will act as you do.
Sunday, 3 April 2011
A recent tweet caught my attention: ‘One of the things that’s been important is, from the first moment, eliminating parents’ opinions from what we do’.
Monday, 7 March 2011
It is often quoted in the popular media that ‘sport builds character’. Indeed, many parents enrol their children in team sports under the assumption that their child will gain important life-skills such as team-work, communication, leadership, moral decision-making, and interpersonal skills. Further, they are likely to benefit from increases in self-esteem, social connections and physical skills, so we are lead to believe. And justifiably so. Research has shown that organised leisure activities such as youth sports provide a unique social context that lends itself to positive developmental gains such as these. In particular, sport is comprised of a unique combination of motivation, attention and challenge that is not found in other youth activities such as schooling, or down-time with friends.
The recent popularity of the ‘Tiger Mum’ has brought a new fascination with harsh parenting styles that demand self-disciplined children. In fact, the Tiger Mum is infamous for her demands that her children practice violin for three hours every day, and study no less than that as well.