NFL Flag Football, a program that has been in Payson since 2004, recently released “Principles for Parents” — guidelines that will be distributed to moms and dads when they register their children for play.
Flag football officials say the principles are general guidelines to help parents understand the daily pressures children face.
NFL officials write, “We believe that football should be an outlet for fun. Encourage your child and allow them to have a good time.”
While parental misbehavior has not been an overwhelming problem in Payson, each year there are instances of a mother or father crossing the line to become problem parents.
A few years ago, I wrote a story of a father coming out of the stands at the conclusion of a youth football game to tell a local coach he was going “to kick his ....”
That’s not the kind of behavior we expect from parents, but unfortunately it does happen.
During my years in high school coaching, I found many of the problems occurred when parents identified too strongly with their children.
That is part of the love of a parent, but it can be excessive and often turn into an extension of the parent’s own ego.
Often they don’t see their own son or daughter on the playing field, they see themselves.
When that occurs and the young athlete doesn’t excel, the parents feel threatened.
Sports psychologists label the phenomena “reverse dependency,” saying the parent becomes dependent on the child for feelings of self-worth.
If parents would follow “Principles for Parents” released by NFL Flag Football, there would be far fewer problems coaches must deal with. The principles were designed for parents of touch football players, but are just as meaningful for the mothers and fathers of high school players.
The principles are:
• Remember that your child learns more from your actions than your words. Practice good sportsmanship by being respectful to players, parents and coaches on both teams.
• There is nothing wrong with applauding a good play made by opponents. Parents can be good role models by appreciating the efforts made by both teams.
• Most coaches work hard at what they do. Out of respect for the pro profession, please allow your child’s coach to be the only one coaching players on the field.
• Please refrain from loud or rude behavior.
• Encourage discipline by having your child arrive on time for practice and games.
• Belonging to a team requires commitment. Parents can help their children understand that through regular attendance and preparation.
• Please respect officials and their calls. It’s OK to disagree, but inappropriate to disparage.
One principle I’d like to add concerns the problem of realistic goal setting for the children. Parents need to understand there is a difference between dreams and goals.
In my career, I dealt with many parents who were absolutely convinced their son or daughter was a D-I prospect and might have the talent to play professionally.
That’s a distorted perception of ability.
Look around, how many Payson High School graduates have ever received an athletic scholarship to a D-1 school?
Only a small handful.
There’s a better chance of a PHS student earning an academic scholarship than an athletic one.
Also, the No. 1 source of conflict between coaches and parents are disagreements about the ability of the athlete, which translates into playing time.
Most coaches I know have a simple rule for varsity sports — “Playing time is non-negotiable.”
I was at a coaching clinic years ago when Arizona’s legendary coach Lute Olson justified that rule by saying, “Parents have one (athlete) to worry about, and I have an entire team.”
To reinforce the proven notion that only a very few prep athletes have the talent to make it to the big time, take a look at the state of Washington in 1994 when there were 9,776 senior boys playing high school sports. Only 117 of them received athletic scholarships. That’s just 1.2 percent — a very tiny, elite group.
Statistics show the chance of a high school athlete playing professionally in any sport is 1 in 12,000.
Finally, we’re hearing around the state that coaches, both on the youth and high school level, are quitting.
Not because they had a poor record, but because they had enough of dealing with parents.
Let’s hope with the new school year upon us, parents and coaches come together in a harmonious relationship agreeing to what is best for our young athletes.