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Posted at 12:39 PM ET, 02/08/2012

How to balance the relationship between your parents and your coach


Two weeks ago, I wrote about dealing with a special kind of fan — your parents. This week, I want to give you some examples of what I’m talking about, in terms of balancing that relationship with your parents and your coaches.

Parents and players should be loyal to their program and coach; it’s imperative that everyone understands the chain of command especially if the goal is collegiate athletics.

James Jr. and Rayna Robinson are the parents of two DeMatha student-athletes; James III is a senior basketball player who has signed with Pittsburgh and Jamal is a sophomore football player.

A school like DeMatha attracts a certain type of athlete by virtue of its name and its history. But the basketball program makes its expectations for players and their parents very clear right from the beginning by handing out copies of “The 10 Commandments for Parents.”

The document addresses any issue a parent may have either directly or indirectly. The eighth commandment is my favorite: “Please don’t have the coaches think of your possible reaction when they are coaching your son. That is not fair to your son or the coaches.” This goes for players too; if you’re thinking about your parents’ reaction above that of your coach or teammates, something is severely wrong.


DeMatha senior James Robinson III (Toni L. Sandys - WASHINGTON POST)

The Robinsons have a simple philosophy for parenting an athletic child: “Support them athletically as well as non-athletically and [put] priorities in the right place,” James Robinson Jr. said. It’s not an earth-shattering response; in fact, this is probably the philosophy of most high school athletes and their parents.

But there’s one other thing that the Robinsons emphasize, and I think it may be one of the keys to success: communication.

“Being able to talk to him [James III] and actually being able to listen to him. . . has been helpful,” James Robinson Jr. said. “When the chips are not falling his way, he’s kind of had to figure it out [and] ask us what our thoughts were.”

The Robinsons don’t just soothe their son’s ego by reminding him of how incredible he is; instead they are very constructive in their advice.

“We usually talk about it,” Rayna Robinson said. “What do you think you could do or could have done differently and what is your next step? Instead of me trying to tell him what to do, I listen and then there are times, of course, I can always say, also consider doing A, B, or C.”

Parents and children — especially high school age — can very easily get disconnected. Keeping clear lines of communication is paramount, and requires effort on both ends.  Your parents want to support you, but you shouldn’t expect them to lie to you. Take the criticism and do something with it.

It sometimes becomes exceedingly frustrating dealing with your parents and your coaches, but you have to weather the storm instead of looking for a soft comfy place to lie down.


Pittsburgh Coach Jamie Dixon (Mark Gail - WASHINGTON POST)
I asked James III’s future coach, Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, how he handles questions about playing time from parents.

“Every situation is different, but generally the kids know the answer,” Dixon said. “Those kids are generally going away from home — they’re at practice everyday, they know the situation, they’re aware. They’re the ones that are at practice, the parents often are not.”

When the relationship between coach, player, and parent works well, it’s far easier for an athlete to focus.  James III himself admits that having everyone on the same page “helps further the support system.”

I was horrified the one time my father and my high school coach severely clashed. I remember the argument — my dad felt that the way my coach was yo-yoing me in and out of a game was disrespectful and uncalled for — and I understood where my dad was coming from. But I knew in the back of my mind that I wasn’t running the plays correctly, and I was frustrated as well.

I wanted so badly to be a part of the team and not have my dad complicate the situation. That coach — who I and my teammates were in­cred­ibly fond of — was replaced in the middle of the season, and I felt so guilty. I love my dad — he was huge in my development — but this coach was giving me an opportunity to showcase my talent and use what my dad taught me. Seeing the two at odds tore me apart.

All parties involved are human and come with opinions and expectations of their own that may not coincide. However it is truly worth the effort to make an investment in the relationship between coach, player, and parent.

That same high school coach, Keith Brown, eventually went on to become my assistant coach and confidant at Georgetown. He used to say “clear mind, clear heart, can’t lose.” Trying to please a parent and a coach with different philosophies is the quickest way to cloud the mind, and discourage the heart, so make it clear, you don’t want to lose.

About Transition Game

Monica McNutt was an All-Met basketball player at Holy Cross Academy who went on to star for the Georgetown women’s team. She will be offering advice to high school athletes who are looking to make the leap to college sports

Got a question for Monica, or an idea she can use for a future post? Leave it here in the comments, or email her at hss@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter at @__MCM__.

Previously:

Dealing with that special breed of fans: Your parents

Advice for the young star athlete (Jan. 17, 2012)

Offseason is right time to get with the program (Jan. 3, 2012)

Managing to stay close to the game (Dec. 20, 2011)

Leadership, Tebow-style (Dec. 13, 2011)

The importance of attitude (Dec. 6, 2011)

Fine-tuning your “mistake response” (Nov. 22, 2011)

Looking beyond the stat sheet (Nov. 15, 2011)

Battling the “dumb jock” stereotype (Nov. 8, 2011)

Taking advantage of your athletic resume (Nov. 1, 2011)

College recruiting: Finding a program that fits you (Oct. 25, 2011)

Navigating the recruiting process: “Get a clue, control your career” (Oct. 18, 2011)

Secrets to success: Food and rest (Oct. 11, 2011)

Introducing “Transition Game” (Oct. 4, 2011)

 

By Monica McNutt  |  12:39 PM ET, 02/08/2012

 
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