A note from Badger Parent Advocate, Mike Conaton:

I spent some time recently with a very successful high school coach of a dryland team sport.

I will say, I’m thankful we are parents of swimmers – i.e. athletes in an individual sport measured ultimately by how fast they can swim. Of course our coaches need to be teaching the right strokes and training the kids the right way, but for a large part, swimming can be a sport that has a high correlation between work and improvement/success. In other words, the swimmer tends to get what the swimmer puts into it. While leadership qualities, attitudes, work ethics and other characteristics are certainly important, at the end of the day comparing swimmers’ times can be pretty straight forward.

As we all know, athletes in competitive team sports not only have to perform but also have the added challenge of distinguishing themselves in a much more subjective environment, measured by many variables with different degrees of importance to a biased judge, or coach…rightfully biased by his/her philosophies, experiences, team goals.

The coach I talked to believed strongly in communication with the athlete, AND the parents – to allow first and foremost the athlete to understand those measurement variables and priorities on his team; and secondly to make the parents aware of the same. He knows parents can be very worried and even vocal about their kids’ opportunities with limited positions and large competitive teams. By including the parents, he accepts that he can be observed and even measured every single day by parents who are looking for consistency in his message – one of his many challenges with his parents.

We compared and contrasted our parents and found some common denominators –

Parents mean well 
I truly believe parents mean well…we just want the best for our kids. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure there are many reasons for this. One simple reason is we love our kids and want them to be happy and do well for THEMselves. I talked to the team sport coach about my belief that parents are an untapped resource. I believe we are coachable, and that the communication he offers is welcomed and a lot better than silence and guessing, leading to potential frustration and even misbehavior. (Not sure he totally agreed about the coachable part, haha). A coach’s ability to project fairness, consistency, confidence and knowledge, i.e. credibility, I told him as a parent, I think goes a long way.

Parents have means 
And I’m not an economist either but this generation seems to have means and the mind set to want to see our kids improve and do well at startling costs. The use of private technique coaches, nutritionists, and weight lifting coaches seems to be more and more pervasive in more and more sports. Too bad you can’t buy perspective, which we both agreed parents can benefit from. Again communication and education is key – what does it take to contribute? To play on his team? To improve? To play/swim at the next level whatever that is? There are many high schools and colleges in the world and there is a fit for all of our kids if they want to pursue that level…for themselves. And by the way, I wonder how much of a kid’s inherent character, dedication and hard work, if applied fully, could equal or even exceed the benefit of some of those ancillary tutors…

Parents can be mean
We have all heard the stories of the ugly parents. I think we parents just have to try to keep cool, keep perspective and maintain decency and respect. Coaches put a tremendous amount of time and dedication into taking care of our kids and frankly, probably aren’t compensated commensurately – at least monetarily. They do it in large part because they love helping kids. Above all, we parents always need to ask ourselves how we would want to be spoken to and treated at our work? …at our home? …by people who are supposedly supporting us?

Of course none of us are perfect (including me and especially my use of homonyms you’re thinking), and I don’t mean to preach, but I’d like to think we all try do our best, with our kids top of mind, and hopefully with respect for others around us.

Michael Conaton, Badger Swim Club Inc. and Badger Swimming Inc. accept no liability for the content of this article, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.

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