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Parental Involvement

A scratch of the head, an eye-roll after a double fault, a painful wince - children are amazingly perceptive and acutely aware of their parents' reactions to their performance on the court. When that message is one of parental disappointment, the resulting stress can be overwhelming to even the hardiest of characters.

In my half century of working with young people, I've pretty much seen it all. I've witnessed parents develop nervous twitches, eating disorders, hives, ulcers, heart arrhythmias, addictions (the list goes on and on), all directly related to their expectations and the performance level of their children.

The most amazing thing is that in most cases the parents actually believe that their children are completely unaware of the stress the parents are experiencing. Unfortunately, not only are the kids aware of their parents' stress, the stress quickly infiltrates the youngster's own immature and developing nervous system and wreaks havoc on their daily lives, both on the court and off.

As important as a coach's role is in the development of a young athlete, a parent's role is tenfold more important. Due to the complexities of each role, it is almost impossible for one person to assume two different roles. The advantages of having the checks and balances of a three-pronged government are pretty much the same as a three-pronged performance team in which a coach coaches, a parent parents, and a player plays. When one individual attempts to do fulfill the responsibilities of two different roles, the entire team suffers, and disaster can ensue.

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