When I watch interviews of professional athletes I always smile at the athlete who thank their family. After all, if not for a supportive family many of them would not be where they are today. Families support young athletes financially, with transportation, equipment, moral support, and other countless ways. Family is the single most important factor in a young athlete’s life.
We as coaches need to keep this in mind. Often we look at Holiday Break, Spring Break, and Summer Vacations as time to get in an extra practice, another tournament, or camps. These are all good things to have as options for young athletes, but we need to make them just that, options. We need to draw a line between making a child choose between their family and their team
I have been on all sides of this equation. I have been the athlete, the coach, and the parent. By far the toughest role I have played is that of the parent. Because of that, I have tried to make significant changes as a coach. My son came home from a team meeting and informed me of the team calendar. They had a full schedule for Spring Break as well as most of the summer. I had already planned family vacations for Spring Break as well as a few things in the summer. I was conflicted. I have always told my son he needs to be dedicated to his sports. But if I cancelled the trips, would I as a parent be choosing sports over family? Would missing one or two practices and maybe a game make or break my son’s career? In the end, I stepped in as a father, and we went on vacation
My son went on to have a fabulous year in sports. His playing time was never jeopardized by going on vacation. He missed very little in fact. At the end of that year I asked him what the highlight of his year was. He told me he had two. The first was the Spring Break vacation we took, and the second was a tournament he went to with his team.
I discovered my son had balance. We found a good balance with his sports and his family. As a coach I want balance from my athletes. A balance between the team and their family. I see the significance for having extra practices and tournament during breaks. Not only do they make the athletes better, but it also gives kids something to do other than just sit at home playing dreadful video games. But in my emails to parents about my expectations during breaks, I always have a preference. The preference being family comes first.
A Chinese Proverb says “A family in harmony will prosper in everything.” Coaches, please keep this in mind as we think about what we demand of time. If an athlete has balance with sports and family, harmony in both will be achieved.