A MESSAGE TO PARENTS
Ask any age-group coach what his number one problem is and invariably
he'll answer: "parents!" Whether it's Haines or Gambril, Tinkham
or Wright, in any area the answer is the same...the problem is the same.
From time to time it behooves a coach to comment on this problem and so,
I've reprinted here two articles I wrote last year in addition to the following:
Now as in the past our parents have been tops. It has been our good
fortune to have many, many cooperative, understanding and unselfish people
dedicated to swimming ends in general. But as always the bad are more aggressive
than the good, and the one who raves is the one who is heard. Such a parent
is a threat to the development of a team, both demoralizing and interfering
with its progress. He doesn't have to be plural; even one parent of this
nature is a threat--but only if he draws an audience! If he can't communicate
his dissenting voice, then he is solo. Nobody knows this better than he.
It's easy to spot this type of parent:
- He's only interested in two things--his boy or girl, as the case may
be, and his own success as a critic.
- He isn't interested in your kid--except for what it can mean for his
own--but he wants you to think so, and he'll tell you just what's wrong
with him or her and why they're not the world-record holder, and what the
coach is doing wrong.
- He dwells on error, never lauds progress in others, and in fact resents
it (though he may be tactful about this) for it detracts from himself as
- He never cheers for others, never contributes anything but advice and
criticism designed to advance his own reputation as a swimming sage.
- He's the one who is at a loss to explain his own kid's success except
as a result of what he himself says, but is quick to pin the "blame"
on the coach if Johnny or Mary don't improve fast enough.
- You'll never find him at a parents meeting, though he's the first to
complain about a breakdown in communication between coach and parent.
- He criticizes freely, though he doesn't know what the coach has told
the swimmer, what the swimmer is trying to do, or what the end result is
supposed to be.
- He is usually versed enough to spot a few common errors, knows names
from other areas thoroughly because his kid will beat them) and uses both
to impress any who will listen, any who want a "short- cut" to
success, and all those who are looking for the "secret" of swimming.
- And though he can spot some errors he understands neither the individual
who is making them nor why he is making them. He sees the swimmers from
the balcony, floating in a transparent medium and fails to follow the true
line of the water or resulting resistance. More important, he has never
seen them underwater.
- Neither does he know how to correct errors, which is also an individual
thing...often a swimmer can correct his breathing by changing his kick,
- Invariably he interferes or causes interference through other parents
with anything he doesn't understand...whether it's a stroke customized
to the swimmer's individual strength proportion or an indirect approach
to another problem.
- Lastly, he not only fails to add to the parents group, but detracts
from it. When his usual listeners wear thin or grow tired, he finds someone
new. He latches on to new and prospective members--uninformed members--and
poisons them, too.
-----Wake up parents! This type of person won't do you any good. He's
neither dedicated to you nor swimming; he's smart...he knows the angles...how
to use you!
How should one deal with such a parent? Ignore him? Rebuff him? No.
If you don't want your kids to reflect your antagonisms then nix- nix (if
your kids have a problem with a teammate ask yourself one question: "how
do I get along with the parents of the other swimmer? ") The dissenting
parent is no threat unless you listen to him. He needs you. Make an effort.
Go missionary! Convert him. And if you can't, than keep trying...you'll
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