I am pretty sure the author of the popular statement, "If looks could kill," came up with it while watching an athlete responding to parental advice about how to play sports. Does that deadly look mean parents or kids are doing something wrong, no, but what it means is that the time for parents' youth coaching days are dead - "over," so parents should learn to shut up, at least for the most part and for the immediate future, because it is not going away soon.
I've seen "the look" so often in my coaching career, including from my own kids when I gave baseball advice, even though I had vast baseball knowledge and experience. What is ironic is that the player's coach says something to them and they are often all ears and enthusiasm; their parents followup with the same insight, and a split personality appears in the form of the deadly eyes. All sports parents know, or will learn, of the look I mean - the cold, dark stare with the limp body language. The player is inwardly screaming out, "What in the world can you tell me that can help or that I do not already know?" or "I have counted; you have said that six million times already in my lifetime, so enough already."
Both sides have a point, as parents just want to help, but players have heard the same things probably close to a million times over the years. Unfortunately, unless sports parents put a zip on it, the youth athlete may begin to enjoy playing much less, even to the point of wanting to hang sports up.
The thing is, one day the child listens intently, the next day the parent is Dr. Evil. It is like adults having great eyesight one day and the next day, reading glasses are necessary. Barring a miracle, the reading glasses are necessary for the rest of their lives, and similarly, parents probably are done as the player's coach once the look arrives.
"The look" shows up at different ages for different families, and few are able to avoid that day, no matter how compassionate and helpful parents are. The most prominent time for it to show up is the 12-year-old age, give or take a year. Some relationships survive the puberty years, but the behavior shows up once kids reach high school. As mentioned, menacing acting youth does not make athletes evil, it is part of growing up, screaming out for independence from mom and dad.
I do not believe it is my job as one of the player's coaches to tell parents how to parent, but once I see the look, I want to scream to parents, "It's time to shut up and let their coaches coach. You have gotten them this far, but it is time to hand over the athletic coaching reigns." When parents insist on grilling players after the look has arrived, many players begin to dread playing, or at least wish mom and dad would just disappear.
Of course, I am lighthearted with some of this dire talk, but parents should change their tune once the glaring begins to avoid unnecessary tension that may last for years. Some kids drop the look when they get through puberty and return to taking advice once again, but most youths have ended their playing days by that time.
It is parents' responsibility to care and try to help, so it is not easy to simply sit on the sidelines and offer nothing, but that is probably best. Following are some other tips for parents once the scowl arrives:
This tension-causing situation is most difficult when a parent is the child's team coach. In that position, parents must treat their own as if they are just another team member and let the other coaches give most of the playing assistance to their son or daughter.
Finally, maybe I should not have offered tips for parents to help this situation, as this type child behavior is what has kept me in business all these years kids not willing to listen to mom or dad.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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