Once upon a time, when the school was younger, there was this Dad. He meant well. He really did. But there came a time when the instructors had to just step in and tell this Dad to shut up and let them do the teaching, not him!
The boy was a good kid. He usually behaved in class but not always because he was, after all, a typical seven year old boy that just loved life as a seven year old boy should. At times, he would misbehave on the end of the rail as he and his buddy would push and shove a little to see who got to go first. Sometimes he would play with the target instead of holding right. He would do the head bob push-ups just so he could be the first one done; or he would just keep talking and laughing with one of the other kids when he was supposed to be listening. But most of the time he would try real hard and he was making good progress. But on those days when he was being… well, a seven year old boy, it drove his father nuts because the father KNEW he could do better.
It was on one of those days when the seven year old boy was being exceptionally seven years old, the father said something just the wrong way and the instructors had had enough. Mr. Dominach (who now has his own school in Independence, KY) was running the floor and he grabbed the dad and put him in the office. I could tell he was ticked. I also could tell the Dad was in for it that day. As soon as the Dad sat down, Mr. Dominach LET HIM HAVE IT!
“Mr. Perdue, you have to knock it off! You are expecting too much of Jeremy and you are killing his love for Taekwondo. I am in charge of his training, NOT YOU. Just like you told me when Jeremy started! From now on, when Jeremy is taking class; YOU ARE IN THE OFFICE!” I went to say something stupid like “Hey, this is MY school.” when I saw that Mrs. Morgan (my manager) was standing behind him with her arms crossed. It was a full Coupe d’état. I held up my hand and yielded. Not because I wasn’t in charge; but because I knew, as an instructor, they were right!
While I always meant well, that is when I realized that I was the worst Martial Arts Dad EVER! For the next several years, whenever Jeremy was in class, I sat in the office. No matter how well I trained the other kids and even the instructors that were teaching my son, I had to understand that I was not the best instructor for my own son. Why? Because I was superimposing my desire for his success on him rather than letting him discover the desire for success for himself. I was depriving him of learning his own self-focus and self-discipline instead of that which I imposed on him.
As the years have passed, I understand now from experience that sometimes our parental criticism can do far more harm than good. As parents we have to remember that athletics is about the process as much as or more so than the results of any particular practice or game. The longer they participate, the more lessons they will learn. So the key is make it enjoyable so they don’t get discouraged. Does that mean everything should always be rainbows and sunshine where everyone wins all the time and the coach should never give direct evaluation on performance and effort? Far from it! They should have setbacks. They should see that their efforts in practice contribute to results on game day. The coach SHOULD hold the kids accountable for their effort and their performance. That is where the kids learn life skills through athletics.
However, in the vast majority of cases, coaching from the sidelines adds an additional negative layer to their efforts that is unneeded and, in most cases, unwarranted. What is the fun in that? No matter how qualified we may be in that sport, we as parents should back off and let the coach do it. That way when the setbacks do occur, as they should, we can there with the ice cream and the pat on the back to make that little setback seem insignificant and very temporary so they can focus on the next game, match, practice, etc. No matter what the sport or the athletic activity, what our kids need most from us isn’t our criticism, but our support.