This is a deep subject and one I don't feel I've mastered, but it's a question I get asked often.
"Should I force my athlete to ________, or let them choose?"
Whether it's about:
- doing training at PFP (our gym, Player's Fitness and Performance)
- doing mindset training
- practicing/running on their own
- going to a private skill coach
- having a certain attitude, level of effort, etc.
You are probably really eager to hear my response, but I don't have THE answer.
I have a question to ponder and a principle to consider.
Question 1: If I force them in this situation, what is the best thing that could happen? What's the worst? And can I live with the worst?
Example: Over the past 9 years (PFP's 9 year anniversary is this Friday) I've witness literally hundreds of parents who "forced" their kids to at least come try it, against their will.
The majority of these kids walked into PFP mad, anxious, and often a combination of those emotions because "their parents made them", but they left begging to come back.
And as it so often goes, these kids lives were radically transformed by the love-powered coaching experience that combines results, relationships, and helping them have a better mindset.
My takeaway: faith is required when forcing your kids to do anything. If you have faith that the thing you are forcing them to do is going to make a difference from the inside-out (and not just improve their batting average) then it's probably worth taking the risk once or twice.
If you have to force them to do an extracurricular activity continuously, that will probably damage parts of your relationship long-term.
Which leads to a principle...
Principle: Rules without Relationship = Rebellion
PFP is my example here as well. We know that a bunch of kids who come to PFP for the first time are used to dictatorial coaches who command and control because quite frankly, they can.
Understandably, they are hesitant at first.
They quickly find that our team has been selected and trained to prioritize trust and relationship building over results and perfection of form/effort/etc. in the beginning.
That is because, Rules without Relationship = Rebellion! One of the ways we build the relationship is by serving them- we show them we are not like other coaches. We get their weights out for them, ask for their input, help them until they "get it", etc.
The same is undoubtedly true in parenting, but you know that. A dad who prioritizes work above kids, and then forces his daughter to practice her sport, attend clinics, give "110%" (even though he gives 50% effort as a dad) is slowly but surely hurting the relationship.
I've witnessed many kids who are "forced" to do something in regards to their sports, but they don't feel like they are being forced or coerced.
This is so cool and it is the result of a parent who has been highly intentionally about the relationship, they have explained the "Why" to their kids as often as needed, and as a result the kid fully trusts them and appreciates their "push".
My takeaway: It is fine to force your child to do something (see question #1 for help with the details) but if you are going to force your kid to do anything, ensure you are continuing to invest deeply in the relationship. If you don't, you'll get short-term result but long-term rebellion from the activity, the sport, and perhaps even the relationship.
Just some thoughts here on a Saturday morning. Take what is helpful and leave the rest!
Coach Andrew J Simpson
P.S. I share a lot of other principles of sports parenting and coaching in my first book, The Youth Truth. If you haven't read it you can grab it along with the Free Athlete Mental Game Vault here.