Dealing with Pushy Parents

Pushy parents ruin sport for young people as well as coaches, competition officials and basically everyone who has to spend time around them. They can be intimidating, bullying and bring the reputation of the player, club and sport down with them.

Because most martial arts are weight catagorised, comments from parents towards children regarding their weight, especially in a high pressured competetive environment have been known to cause eating disorders. This isn’t localised to martial arts either, this type of thing happens in sports like gymnastics and athletics, especially amongst female competetors.

So what can be done when parents are taking it way too far when it comes to pressure to do well, abusive levels of support in competition and in training? We’ll look at it from the child’s perspective and the coach’s perspective

Kids

If you are a child with parents who are pushing you too hard in your sport. By that I mean they get angry if you don’t want to train, they might be telling you how to train or what training you should be doing. They might be restricting your diet or shouting angrily at referees in competition or other parents or coaches. You’ve probably got a problem on your hands and it can really bring you down with it.

If you’ve got a good relationship with your parents, talk to them, tell them either to calm down or make sure they know what you want from them and the sport. If you want them to push you and monitor your diet, then ask for it. If you don’t then make sure they know that. But quite often you might feel embarassed to talk to them or even frightened. If there are issues when it comes to training or competition, one way out can be going with friends families rather than your own. But if it is at this point, you might want to talk to someone. You can always approach your coach, they’ve done training in how to deal with problems like this, or you can go to your club’s welfare officier (if your martial art is an olympic sport, it should have a welfare officer) and they can help a lot more.

Coaches

Frist thing is to prevent there being a problem in the first place. Make sure your club has a policy about parents behaviour. For instance, my old judo club has a rules board which says that parents should be quiet on the side of the mat. If there is a particular problem, make sure your club has a policy such as reserving the right to ban parents but not players from the club and make sure that it’s visible.

Communicating these policies to parents can often make the difference. If a parent is being particularly loud while training is on or in a competition, talk to them first so they know what the score is. This may stop the issue straight away.

Having some sort of policy set up in advance makes taking action a lot easier. However it can be difficult because you may well lose the player as well as the parents but having a visible policy can be a deterrant for misbehaviour. If you do end up losing the player and parents, at least that negative influence is no longer bringing the club down with it and make sure that the player knows they are still welcome.

If a player approaches you regarding their parents or anyone else’s parents, follow your safeguarding training and think about taking steps to report it.

The takeaway from this is not to tolerate parents acting agressively, pushing their child too hard or disrupting training or competition. They bring down the rest of the club with them and firm action may prevent future problems for anyone involved.

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5 reasons you should take a break (why I did too)

Sometimes in sport, the best thing for you to do is to take a break, be it for a few days, weeks, months or in my case, years. This article focuses on some things which suggest you should be thinking about having a break for a while if they apply to you.

1. Not having fun

Ok yeah, training isn’t always fun, sometimes its a hard graft you have to go through to earn your place on the podium or to be the guy with your hands in the air after the final bell. But if the entire process is no longer outweighed by the feeling of winning, or if winning doesn’t give you kicks any more, then it might be time to thing about having some time out. If you’re in MMA perhaps try a new martial art and focus on that for a while or even stop fighting completely and try something new like track or weightlifting. Coming back afterwards might give you a new perspective on your sport and make the whole thing more rewarding.

2. Stress

There are factors we can’t control throughout all of our lives. Stress can reduce your performance and a heavy training schedule can prevent you from dealing with the problem. However, depending on your relationship with your sport, you might want to only reduce your training load rather than take a break as exercise is a great way of reducing stress. This is one just to bear in mind and it is down to you how you deal with it.

3. Loss of motivation

If you’re just turning up to training because that is what you do and you have a bit of a “Same Shit DIfferent Day” attitude, your motivation and drive is low and your performance will probably follow. You probably won’t be having fun and you’re probably looking for excuses not to train. If this is you, Take some time off until you feel motivated to get back into the gym/dojo. Make sure you communicate with your coaches, just upping and leaving can alienate people who have your best interests at heart. If you do build up the urge to train again, you’ll find yourself much more driven and focussed on a goal than you were before and you’ll fall in love with the sport all over again.

4. After a big fight

These next 2 are more practical reasons. If you are competing at a high level, you might want to think about taking a few days off at least after a big fight. If you’re training properly, you ought to have come to a peak not long before your fight and you’ll need a deload period of lighter training. This reduces stress on your nervous system as well as giving you a psychological break. It also allows your hormone levels to return to normal immediately after the fight as your testosterone is probably jacked. Once you’ve had few days break and a lighter week of training, you can then work off of that baseline to work up to a peak before your next fight.

5. Injury

This normally applies much more to the younger fighters. Unfortunately I’ve known a number of friends and family (myself included) who have decided that they are recovered enough to train despite doctors or physio’s orders and they end up with worse injuries. If you love your sport and you want to have a professional attitude, stop training and do your rehab properly (like the pros do) or you may well end up having to stop much earlier than you’d like. Going through the recovery process properly will increase your longevity and reduce the damage you take over time. This is especially true for concussions which can lead to very serious complications if not delt with properly.

My story

I took 2 years away from Judo after having practiced more or less every week for 12 years. I wasn’t finding the sport that much fun, I had not drive or purpose and because of that, I wasn’t going anywhere. I just quietly slipped out of training and stopped communicating with everyone (why I reccommend communication in point 3). However after a couple of years of focussing on other aspects of my life, I learnt how to motivate myself again and came back to train. I’d set myself a goal of getting my black belt and trained hard with determination for it and when it came to my grading, I won the line up in just under a minute and a half. The takeaway message here is if you need to: let it go and you may even come back better later on.

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