Junior cricket season is here – what sort of parent will you be?

Grahame Barrett Roar Rookie

By Grahame Barrett, Grahame Barrett is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    Junior cricket season is here again.

    To some of us, this is a new exciting experience, to others we just can’t wait, while to the “converted”, the drag has just begun.

    The vast majority (90%) of youth cricket teams are coached by one or more parents who have children on the team, a necessary arrangement to keep the sport of cricket afloat. Apart from some blinkered parents, few club or representative teams can afford the cost of professional coaches.

    Studies have shown that coaching your child can be a wonderful experience for both parent and child. The extra attention helps the child to “flourish like a rose in the warmth of their parents’ gaze,” says child psychologist Dr Wendy Mogel.

    Unfortunately, there are well-publicized instances where conflicts on the field between coach and child are carried home and negatively affect the parent-child relationship.

    Studies show clearly that just because you’re a good parent doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good coach. Many parent coaches have difficulty separating their roles as a parent and a coach, bringing home issues from practice and games.

    Your child may feel extra pressure to please you, particularly if you’re overly invested in their success. Some children don’t want their parents to coach due to a fear of the reaction of other team members.

    Despite all of the advantages of Milo Into Cricket and Twenty20 Bash, nearly 75 per cent of children stop playing sports by age 15 primarily because the game is no longer fun. Why?

    Perhaps due to over-competitive parental coaching.

    During an informal poll over a 30-year period, hundreds of high school students have been asked to think back: “What is your worst memory from playing junior and high school sports?”

    Their overwhelming response was “The ride home from games with my parents.”

    Nevertheless, 8.00am Saturday morning we will be racing around eager to get to the grounds on time, ready for another session with eyes peeled for the mobile coffee van to receive the morning boost before the task ahead.

    Think carefully with each sip what sort of parent(s) will you be this season?

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    (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    If you are not the team coach, will you be the coach from the sidelines and make the car ride home the most miserable part of your child’s sports experience?

    Will you have poker machine eyes and envisage a position for them in representative cricket, an investment in a future academy scholarship, and thus push for more and more at younger and younger ages than even Milo and Have A Go?

    Will you think they should specialise, give up winter sports to concentrate on this wonderful game in spite of the multitude of evidence that it is physically and psychologically harmful, and has a detrimental effect on their long-term chances of athletic success?

    On the other hand with a year of experience under your club cap, will you suddenly no longer feel the need to keep up with the Smiths, or worry that you’re a bad parent because you will have no pictures of the Under-11 Presidents Cup Team with your son in it to post on Facebook this week?

    Will you wonder why some parents nearby are complaining the “new friends they met at the Under 11-Development Squad training no longer talk to them now that their son has been cut?”

    Will you sit and ponder again how Cricket Australia are stating their new under-11 formats adopted by many district associations are non-competitive yet we are also still having representative cricket at this age?

    Who cares you say, if a parent wants to put time and money into private training, to help their child make this team and buy expensive oversized equipment for their kids, then go for it. It makes them easier to spot and avoid.

    What will you do when you hear at a drinks break one of the “boundary” coaches telling the parent/coach (your husband) he will quit as the scorer and leave the team if his son doesn’t get first bat?

    There are no easy answers to this (travel, elite, trophies, competitive, academies, my kid’s better, versus in-house recreation).

    I understand parents being proud of their children and I’ve seen many kids work hard on their own to move up between seasons. Many are glad their children have had many more opportunities than them.

    Human ugliness really can shine during a close game when we play DCA or Presidents Cup. I think parents believe that if their kids beat yours they must be better parents, right?

    Meanwhile, the parent/coach is still there with his protégés, sun hat, sunscreen and all-weather jacket battling the wind as it keeps the sideline performers out of earshot.

    Are you, however, one of the new breed?

    You know and actually communicate to your child and his or her teammates that success is not the same thing as winning, and failure is not the same thing as losing.

    Success is “hard work, dedication to the job at hand and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied ourselves to the task at hand.”

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    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    If you can teach your children that single lesson, your coaching experience will be worthwhile.

    In reality, we are all to blame for this mess, including me, and everyone who is reading this. Why?

    “Because we have stood by and allowed junior cricket to be professionalised, taken over by adults and stolen from the kids. This is not a sin of commission, it is a sin of omission, a failure to act.”

    Too many parents coach from the sidelines and make the car ride home the most miserable part of the junior cricket experience.

    Yet we do nothing. The vast majority say nothing. We do not demand change. We simply complain and then watch our kids burnout, dropout and quit.

    However, I am led to believe there is actually some parents and coaches who do not like this current situation, the toxic sidelines, the over the top spectators, the belligerent coaches, the politics among administrators, the specialisation and the fact that private coaches are recruiting Under 11 and 12-year players these days.

    They don’t like the costs, the travel requirements or crazy commitments that make them choose between the sixth full weekend in a row of summer and grandma’s 96th birthday.

    If you are nodding in agreement you are likely to be one of the great parents and coaches.

    Have a wonderful season!

    There have been upsets aplenty in the World Cup so far, so be sure to check out our expert tips and predictions for South Korea vs Sweden, Belgium vs Panama and England vs Tunisia and get the good oil on who to tip tonight.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • October 24th 2017 @ 10:16am
      Junior Coach said | October 24th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      Grahame, excellent article , the intrusion of parents and professional coaching into junior cricket has become all pervasive and counter productive. Kids who dont make rep sides by the time they are 12 are never looked at again and worse kids who dont deserve to be in rep sides are their because dad is the coach. I am of the opinion that CNSW needs to change the rep structure to Cawsey Shield as the start point and get rid of the 10/11 comps, they probably need to bring in some kind of nepotism rules as well for ALL associations. Third thing I would bring in is “anti poaching rules” which reduces the competiveness of Junior Club Cricket (seen too many times when rep coaches approach kids in their rep sides to come across to their club to make a Premiership winning side) Every association should try to make the club comp as competitve as possible , kids stay interested when they have a chance of winning. The overcoaching of kids is rife too- imagine being a talented 13-14 year old and you have 1.Parent, 2.Club Coach, 3. batting coach, 4. bowling coach, 5. Rep coach ,all in your ear for the entire season. Kids need to work most of the game out for themselves to be truly successful and most just end up confused.

      • October 24th 2017 @ 3:42pm
        JoM said | October 24th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

        I agree, but there are plenty of kids who deserve to be in rep teams even if their father is the coach. Most of the time these days they want Level 2 coaches but back when my son started Under 10 there were hardly any around and that year’s coach blatantly favoured his own son. He did it for a couple of years and then stepped down because he wasn’t a good coach at all. The head of the association begged my husband who was a Level 2 to take over but he hadn’t wanted to get involved so he wasn’t accused of nepotism. He wouldn’t have been anyway because our son was always going to be picked for his bowling no matter who the coach was, but still. There were some seriously awful parents around that team over the years who had way higher opinions of their sons than recognising their true ability or lack of.

        Don’t really agree on getting rid of the 10’s and 11’s, though maybe with the new rule changes it might be a good idea. Both my kids were so proud getting presented with their baggy caps at Drummoyne Oval and they just loved rep season and were than capable of handling it.

    • October 24th 2017 @ 2:08pm
      matth said | October 24th 2017 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

      I admit I’m a terrible parent. I laugh at my child. But then, he’s not very good. But his top score of 24 is still slightly better than my epic landmark of 6 not out. Good genes.

      I’m actually very lucky. My son is never going to be a star and he is smart enough to know it. He has many other interests and talents so neither of us get our self esteem from his performances. But he loves the game, seriously loves it. So our trips home are fantastic as we analyse what went right (sometimes) or what went wrong (more often). Being a ‘B’ Class kid can sometimes be better. I see other more talented kids who have a rare failure (as a batsman it only takes one ball after all) and beat themselves up. I’ve seen kids have a great game and then get chipped by their Dad as to the few things they might have done wrong. The only pressures my son has to contend with is whether the better boys will accept that he is the classic bits and pieces player and won’t win them the game and whether he can con me into buying him a frozen coke on the way home (he has a 100% success rate there).

      I think parents need to remember that in most cases they actually love cricket and that is what they really want to pass on to the next generation.

      • October 25th 2017 @ 6:03pm
        Ian said | October 25th 2017 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

        Well said Matth. Those parents who seek to live their lives vicariously through the success of their offspring will unfortunately always be with us. It could be instructive to direct them to the comments of Bernard Tomic re the pressures on him and his current sorry state.

    • October 24th 2017 @ 5:10pm
      Paul said | October 24th 2017 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

      In an ideal world, each junior side would have a “parents coach”. Part of this role wold be managing parental expectations of their children, making sure the parent is capable of passing on good information (the parent understands the basics of the game), ensuring parents realised the importance of positive encouragement and above all, making sure the parents helped their child(ren) enjoy the game.

      Sadly, this sort of training for parents doesn’t happen, hence this article. It would be good if CA could develop some pointers for parents, so the types of things mentioned above are minimised and young people enjoy themselves playing cricket.

    • October 25th 2017 @ 9:30am
      Captain Obvious said | October 25th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

      One of my sons is a highly talented cricketer but my only comments to him are “do your best and have fun”. On the trip home we never talk about cricket.
      Unfortunately some of the other parents think that a 12 year-old boy making a mistake is reason to chastise them (whether it’s their own son or someone else’s). I find that attitude appalling.
      Cricket is fun, sport is fun, people need to realise this. My boys play in one of the biggest junior competitions in the country and it has produced a whopping 4 international players in over 50 years. The sooner parents realise that the chances of their sons playing at an elite level is next to zero the better. Let them enjoy the game for what it is.

    • October 25th 2017 @ 9:47am
      Marshall said | October 25th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      I remember the old man giving me a bit of constructive feedback on the ride home sometimes but overall good memories of talking through the days play and who did well and who didn’t and who was a good player on the opposition.

      Looking back it’s something I appreciate because I certainly noticed other kids who either had Dad too involved and hard on them or didn’t have Dad show up and take any interest at all.

      If you can show up, watch some games quietly and leave the kids do it that is enough. Have a chat afterwards, just knowing you were there is enough.

    • October 25th 2017 @ 12:34pm
      Col said | October 25th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

      This is a thought provoking article, Grahame, which leads to further discussion. Many will relate to personal experiences.

      May I share some of my experiences. Being retired, I have one or two.

      I have three sons who were close in age, so I was the parent coach at some time in their junior years and they had other parent coaches mentioned in the article at other times. Much of their childhood coaching, though, was done while watching a test on TV or playing a backyard test against each other. One rule included the ball hitting anything on the full was out, so a batsman surrounded with bikes and garden furniture was their innovation. The learned to keep the ball on the ground.

      I allowed each of my sons to choose their playing friends. One chose a B competition but soon realised he wasn’t challenged or enjoying the game. Another was frustrated by the coach’s nepotism. It’s all a learning curve.

      Allowing my boys to choose their team resulted in them going to other clubs. They were not poached. They chose the players and coaches where they enjoyed the game. (Isn’t that why we play?) The flip side is, of course, the side they leave is weakened by their departure. Too many promising sportsmen, not just cricketers, are driven from a game they enjoy by the frustration and pressure of having a team (and their parents) relying on them to win.

      The article referred to professionalism. I am not too sure what this means. Being ‘organised’ I assume is different from being professional. If a coach has a number of skills they want to develop during the season, I see this as organised not professional. New skills are introduced subsequently. The parent who recognises and encourages their child’s skill development does more than they realise.

      The sin of omission is so true, but, from a coach’s point of view, walking away from these side line coaches to coach junior teams where you have no family involvement was a very good move. The parent must remember that if they are choosing not to help with the coaching, they are choosing to remain silent and let the coach do their job.

      What happens after the game? There is a difference from being beaten and losing. If you are beaten – the other side was too good on the day. If you lose, then you contributed to your downfall. If this is the case, it raises the coaching question of what you need to work on in the future to help reduce mistakes. This is the coach’s job. Enjoy the ride home.

      Thank you for your article Grahame and allowing me to share a few thoughts with you.

      (Should you be interested if the options mentioned above were successful, the three boys played junior and senior rep cricket as well as league cricket in England.)

      • October 25th 2017 @ 1:33pm
        Junior Coach said | October 25th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

        Good stuff Col- I had two coaching careers and varied experiences. As a young man I had a very good mentor (like a second dad) who had one boy of his own who was not interested in sport at all, I played with my mentor and he encouraged me to come across to help him coach an u/10’s side as the bowling and fielding coach while he took care of the batting. We were both very lucky with that side, great kids, lots of talent and some very strong opposition in that district (Parra-late 80’s to 1995). We put 6 kids from that team into reps, won two premierships in 12’s and then 16’s and made a couple of grand finals . The parents were marvelous, didnt interfere- and to be honest I think they took any problems to my mentor rather than lump them on me as a young bloke. i also think because neither of us had any genetic skin in the side we were always fair , encouraging and treated by the parents as such- happy days!

        The second stint started when my boys wanted to play and I ended up at a local club and I got roped in to coach after their first year. The area had a cross between new suburbs and lower socioeconmic old suburbs. Just getting some of the kids to turn up was an issue, as was getting help from other parents. I had some good talent in the side but not much batting talent- we came last in 3 successive seasons BUT improved from getting done outright most games to scoring 150-200 just about every week and making the opposition fight for every run through tight bowling and aggressive fielding . I did manage to get 1 boy into reps but he wasnt that fussed by the parental behaviour at reps and when offered a spot in 13’s and 14’s turned it down both times. I was also assistant coach for that districts Cawsey shield side.

        My eldest son then moved onto seniors and so did most of the team so i took my young bloke to another club and was offered the coaching spot which i took. This was back in the Parra district , I took the team in 14’s from last to Minor Prems in 15’s – we lost the GF but again stuck to the basics and taught the boys to apply pressure. This team was undermined by one of the parents who thought I didnt give his boy “star status” , we also played most of the boys in seniors in the afternoon and nearly won that comp too. The boy whose dad undermined the formation of the team for U16’s funnily enough still talks to me about his game (he is in 1st grade this year) . I did also find that dealing with parents from an sub continental background challenging and would happily accept that was just as much my fault as theirs.

        I loved nearly every minute of 13 years of coaching , looking back I do regret some of the conversations i had with my own boys – I hate nepotism and was probably way too hard on both of them so as not to be seen as favouring them. The best coaching I did was to teach boys to think the game out for themselves , the boys who went looking to me or another coach for all the answers rarely went as far as those who set their mind to finding their own answers

      • October 25th 2017 @ 5:24pm
        JoM said | October 25th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

        The parents are the major issue, from the ones who drop their kids off at club cricket and disappear and show absolutely zero interest to the ones who behave appallingly towards their own kids and others as well, especially when there is a kid in the team who is better than their own. When my husband finally relented and coached our older son’s rep team, the best thing he ever did was tell the kids to get their drink bottles and go and sit with him further around the field well away from the parents, some of whom would tell their kids to ignore the coach because they thought they knew better. They went from a team that had finished pretty much last the 2 previous years to making the final which they only just lost.

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