1. Reasonable expectations
Keep in mind, 98 percent of club and high school athletes will not play competitively in college or professionally. So embrace a big-picture mindset built around all the good things that will come from your child’s sports experience. They’ll learn teamwork, leadership, discipline, mental toughness, time management, sportsmanship, personal accountability, academic responsibility, humility and integrity. They’ll have an opportunity to get in good physical shape and, very likely, they’ll develop confidence from learning to do something well.
One way to help young athletes have a well-rounded experience is to avoid early specialization. At some point in their youth sports career, they may have to narrow their focus to a single sport or, maybe, two sports, but locking them in to one sport at a very young age is rarely a good idea. It can prevent them from experiencing other activities (music, theater, hobbies) and lead to overuse injuries and burnout.
2. Positive communication
Negativity and poor sportsmanship from parents can yield all kinds of unwanted results for your child, including embarrassment, distraction and the a feeling of added pressure. It also models bad behavior, which can result in kids picking up the same destructive habits.
Here are some keys to positive, effective communication:
- Understand the 24-hour rule. If you have a grievance or any type of issue, don’t talk to the coach about it until at least a full day after the match.
- Request a meeting via text, email or phone message. Don’t pour your thoughts into an email. Face-to-face meetings tend to be much more productive.
- If your athlete is 12 years old or over, encourage them to advocate for themselves. If they’re younger, it’s a good idea for them join you in the meeting with their coach.
- Start any communication by expressing an honest appreciation for the coach’s efforts.
- Take a problem-solving approach rather than an approach that’s critical of the coach. Ask questions for clarification and talk only about your athlete, not about other players on the team.
3. Goal-setting with your athlete
Asking your athlete to answer the following questions will help them prepare for a productive and fun season:
- Why do you want to play?
- What do you think your role is?
- What are your 3 goals for personal improvement?
- What are your 3 goals for team improvement?
- How will you know if you’ve had a successful season?
- What does success for your team mean to you?
- How do you think you can help your team?
4. A safe environment
Your child’s safety is our top priority. To that end, we would like to go over some important points about the relationship between players and coaches:
- Talk to your athlete about abuse (verbal and sexual) and bullying and how to deal with it. If at any time a coach requests private time alone with your athlete (particularly outside of normal team activities), investigate immediately.
- Teach your child to ask questions respectfully, but don’t encourage blind deference to a coach. A coach is in a position of tremendous influence and there are boundaries that he/she must stay within.
- Encourage a buddy system in any situation where your athlete might be in a non-public place with a coach.
- Let your child know that you’re there to listen and help, and stay involved by showing interest in what’s going on with the team.
5. A healthy environment
Our program takes injury prevention very seriously and will be speaking to the athletes at every practice about how they can stay healthy. We will closely monitor any injuries your athlete might experience, but we need your help. If you become aware that your child is experiencing soreness or any indicators that something isn’t right, let us know so we can work with you to create a rehab plan.
Other important aspects of health that we will emphasize:
- Good nutrition
- Proper warmups and cool-downs
Again, we need an assist here. Making sure your child gets proper meals, drinks enough fluids and gets a good night sleep are very. If you would like input from us, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re here to help.
6. Treating officials with respect
The number of refs in the sport of volleyball is declining, and there’s a reason: Abuse and bullying from parents. We need our officials, so it’s critical to treat them with respect. They’re trained to understand the rules of the game, but they won’t be 100 percent right. Get over it! That’s life. It’s not always fair. Teach your child that moving on from a bad call is part of competitive sports. And model good behavior by not being one of those obnoxious parents that yells at officials.
If you think you have a LEGITIMATE complaint, find out what the official grievance policy is and go through those channels.
7. Rules and terminology
A good knowledge of the rules and volleyball terminology will help you form a closer connection to your athlete, the team and the coaches. At your convenience, take a few minutes to review the following rules and volleyball terms.
A final word of advice
Remember, your child’s success or lack of success does not indicate what kind of a parent you are. What is a reflection of your parenting is having an athlete who is coachable, respectful, a great teammate, mentally tough, resilient and who tries his or her best.