Dear Basketball Dad:

You don’t know me – but we’ve sat next to each other for most of this basketball season. First of all – let me say – I’m impressed that you come to watch each and every game your daughter plays. I’ve known plenty of young athletes who would love to have one or both parents attend even one game in their high school career. So showing up to each game certainly is a sign you care about your daughter.

And it’s clear you know basketball. I’m no mind-reader though – it’s clear you know a little about the game because you’re very free about sharing your expertise and what you’re seeing on the court – with me, those around you, the refs, and your daughter on the court.

It’s also clear you like statistics. I know this because after every game you go down and check the scorebook for your daughter’s numbers that night.

It’s clear you’re very invested in your daughter’s success on the court. Sitting next to you – it’s easy to sense the relief after a close win and the utter frustration that comes with a loss. You seem to live and die with each outcome of a game.

You know, I get it. I’m a sport-parent myself. I easily find myself getting caught up in the game – with his success on the field. Not too long ago, my son was getting subbed out and as he came running off the field, I was there to give him a high-five. “Good job today Dad,” he said, as he ran by me. “I didn’t even hear you once!”

It got me thinking. Didn’t he need me to cheer him on? Turns out – nope, he didn’t. He wants me to be there to watch him play. And that’s it.

Sometimes the level of support that we (parents) want to give is not what our young athlete necessarily needs.

So Basketball Dad – you’ve got to stop.

You’ve got to stop coaching your daughter from the stands. Everyone’s in the gym has a role to play. The athletes’ role is to play the game. The referees’ role is the police the game. The coaches’ role is to coach the players. As parent – you get to parent your athlete. Know your role.

You’ve got to stop shouting instructions to your daughter on the court. Ultimately, successful development of your daughter’s capabilities in competitive performances is predicated on her ability to make key decisions in crucial situations. In order for her to be confident in her own ability to make important decisions, she must experience opportunities where her decision-skills and self-confidence are tested and allowed to grow. Yup – she’s going to make mistakes. But let her learn for herself.

And you’ve got to stop investing so much in the outcomes: the wins and losses, her stats, and her playing time. They feel like tangible things – but in time – the medals, trophies, and news clippings become tarnished, yellowed, and worn with age. Value the effort and courage she displays each night on the court. Let her know you appreciate her effort. The memories and sense of pride that she builds as she faces different challenges each game will live on in her memory and grow in value over time.

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