Category Archives: Articles

The Card Ride Home Pt-2

THE CAR RIDE HOME (that takes 5 minutes)

2) The car ride home is an experience that helps define a parent / child relationship. Here are six topics that have helped me improve myself, understand my son better and allow him to challenge himself to be the best athlete he can. This is your second ride sitting in the backseat of my car listening in on our relationship. And if you’re wondering… yes, he did agree to everything written.

Why you need to keep your opinions to yourself.

Opinions. Everybody has one, two, or a lot to share. You may not think you’ve got strong adamant opinions; you may not think you blurt them out; you may think you have your tongue under control. You may even think, so what, I’m entitled to my opinion and I’m free to express it…

I’m driving my son home from a baseball game and I ask him,

“What did the coach say afterwards to the team? Did he bring up some of the same old stuff again?”

“Yeah he did,” my son said, “and he also challenged me to yell out to the other outfielders to whether they should go back or come in on the fly balls.”

“You always yell out,” I said.

“Yep, that’s what I always do,” he said.

“Did you say anything to the coach?”

“No, I just accepted it because he brought it up in front of the team and I wasn’t going to be defensive back to him.”

This is where I stated my opinion:

“The coach should have asked you first whether you call out or not and then say something after he heard your answer.”

My son said nothing.

And this is where I really stated my opinion and blurted out something derogative:

“Rookie coach error.” I muttered.

I knew it the moment I said it this would not be helpful to my son. He hears enough conflicting information from various coaches at different levels without me confusing the issue more. This wasn’t fair to my son and it certainly wasn’t fair to his coach. I could learn a few things off my son by keeping my mouth shut as he did.

He didn’t let his disagreement with the coach affect him. He didn’t like it, however, he got it off his chest with me. And that was the end of it for him.

Not me. No way. I had to say something in response—something not helpful. I even thought for a moment to bring the issue up with the coach. I would have been calm and collected. But I was about to become one of those parents.

What I should have said to my son at the time was, if you disagree strongly about the issue being raised by the coach then perhaps you can talk quietly with him about it during the week. If you, however, feel neither here nor there about it, well done, you’ve taken it on the chin and you can move on.

I spoke to him the next day and apologised for my arrogant opinion of the coach. The coach deserves every respect and honour; he gives up a tremendous amount of his time and energy to manage the team to the best of his ability.

No one is excused from the responsibility of monitoring our personal opinions. We can freely give them but are they constructive or destructive? Are our opinions beneficial or belittling?

Mark Maguire

(You can contact me at maguireonfire@bigpond.com if you would like to discuss your experience or dilemma. I’m always open to learning something new and I’m always open to giving time and thought to help)

The Car Ride Home Pt-1

THE CAR RIDE HOME (that takes 5 minutes)

1) The car ride home is an experience that helps define a parent / child relationship. Here are six topics that have helped me improve myself, understand my son better and allow him to challenge himself to be the best athlete he can. This is your first ride sitting in the backseat of my car listening in on our relationship. And if you’re wondering… yes, he did agree to everything written.

How to inspire your child to overcome their fears.

All our children have fears lying deep within them. Some fears are inconsequential. Most will ignore their fears and give little regard to how they affect their game. More than likely, if the fears remain undealt with, they can hold the young athlete back from successfully taking the next step forward or enjoying themselves more in the sport they’ve chosen.

We are anxious to help our kids overcome their fears but often times we don’t get our message across. Why?

Mostly, it is how we deliver our message. We’re not communicating in a language and a weakness that they can relate to.

Yes, weakness, that’s exactly what I wrote. Your child will relate more to you when they hear about your insecurities, your uncertainties, and your human frailties. And when you share them at the right moment they wont just feel closer to you they’ll feel inspired by you.

My son, in the last few years, has been reluctant to dive to catch a baseball because of a fear he would hurt a swollen left nipple. It’s an embarrassing problem a few teen guys suffer with and something that generally goes away as the teen gets older.

He’s a centre fielder and he’s expected to spread himself over the grass to make the catch if his speed can’t quite get him there; most of the time his speed gets him there. However, there is the rare occasion he should have dived but he didn’t. The lingering and undealt with fear can speak quickly: don’t allow your nipple to get hurt.

I shared with him a certain fear I had about umpiring in baseball games. I would flinch when I perceived the pitchers delivery was going straight for my facemask. What hasn’t helped has been umpiring to catchers that completely miss the ball or the ball deflects off their glove and I wear it in the mask or in the body somewhere in an unprotected spot.

I would tell myself: ok Maguire, don’t flinch; wear it if you have to. Still, I was scared about being hit. Until, one day, I was watching an umpiring instruction video and the speaker said: you’re an umpire, accept it, you’re going to get hit; if you don’t want to get hit don’t umpire.

As simple as that I overcame my fear because I faced the fact and accepted it. I resolved that I wanted to be an umpire and part of the job is I’m going to get hit.

I said to my son: If you want to be an excellent baseball player and go somewhere in the sport you’re going to have to accept you’re going to hurt yourself while diving. If you can’t accept this you’ll limit and hold yourself back.

I went back to him a week later and said: I still now and then flinch, yet I simply smile and tell myself to stare at the ball all the way into the mask; I’m an umpire and I’m going to get hit.  He came back to me three weeks later and was beaming: guess what, dad, I dived, it might have been a bit sloppy, but I didn’t hold back.

Mums, Dads, Coaches: Inspire them through their difficulties by being open about your difficulties and fears and how you fought your way to conquer them. You’ll see your young athlete expand their mind and challenge themselves to greater heights.

Mark Maguire

(You can contact me at maguireonfire@bigpond.com if you would like to discuss your experience or dilemma. I’m always open to learning something new and I’m always open to giving time and thought to help)

THE COMPETITVE PARENT

THE COMPETITVE PARENT

Most of us, not all, but most, hope our children will achieve something special with what they’re doing. That something special is of course relative depending on the vision (or blindness) of the parent. But generally, if our child wants to do something or is willing to make more of an effort at a sport, school, or whatever, then as parents we see it as our role to facilitate and hopefully accelerate that achievement.

I was speaking with a dad of a ten year old football player and he (in the past to now) tells me how talented his son is at the game: his skill to beat a player one on one; his passing game; his ability to read what’s going on in the field… is better than most. Wow, I’m thinking, this kids going to go somewhere.

But here’s the thing, the kid doesn’t want to go somewhere, and it frustrates the hell out of the dad.

This lad is a good kid, a smart kid, a kid with lots of friends, but he doesn’t share his father’s dreams and competitive spirit in this chosen sport. He has chosen to want to always improve but he wants to play football with his friends; the social aspect of the game is more important and he has told his dad this; and to the dad’s credit he has accepted this.

Yet, an interesting thing the dad brought up with me was that his son hates the physical part of the game: being tackled and making a tackle. He loves dribbling and passing and scoring goals, but he tends away from the rough stuff. This was a new revelation and I thought this might have something to do with the son not aspiring to greater heights—can I stress again, might.

The competitive parent can’t see what’s going on inside their child’s head; what’s making the child tick; the child’s fears; the child’s reason why they’re doing something or not doing something. We think we have a clue. We hope our child can articulate their thoughts clearly. But hey, most of us can’t even figure out why we do certain things or say certain things.

We can really only make assessments of them by their actions and not by what they’re saying.

Like the perfectionist who must resolve to live a life of frustration, the competitive parent lives in hope over another it can’t control. I’m yet to meet a parent of an accomplished athlete who claims their child wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for them.

An accomplished athlete has made it because they wanted it for themselves.

All of us competitive parents want it for ourselves as well. Yes, we will swear it’s for our young athletes and them alone. But we have a lot riding on them. We are probably more proud and elated than our child when they do something remarkable. We are probably more disappointed and angry at times than them when they fail or make mistakes. Let’s not fool ourselves; our egos are sensitive and very much vested in our child’s competition. But don’t worry, it’s natural, you are no different to anyone else. We’ve just got to learn how to handle the panic, the frustration and the stress of being that competitive beast.

Firstly, we must realise this competitive feeling, along with all its good and bad attributes is not going to go away. It’s with you for life. You may as well smile and accept it, and realise it is a good thing. I’ve seen a few parents turn up to games to watch their child and not care less and show no interest at all. But they’re a rare beast and we won’t focus on them. The ‘who cares’ spirit is also a disappointment to their child.

Secondly, our competitive spirit only increases the older our kids get, with the ever increasing competition they face to make it into teams and to perform on the field. It doesn’t get any easier. It’s even worse for us if our young athletes start waning in their interest to perform or train. The moment we have to push them to either get to games on time or to train extra, we know, deep down, that our kid hasn’t got what it takes to get to the top.

Heaven forbid, we will ever admit this. We hope our will and determination can make up for our child’s lack of intensity and zeal. I hope for your child’s sake and your sake your child does capture your vision again and make it their vision, but it’s highly unlikely, and next to impossible to accept.

The child has subconsciously seen their limit and has settled for something short of what you had hoped for.

We can now finger point and blame, and make excuses for our child’s lack of drive to get to the top; but it is what it is, your child has spoken through their actions. At this point, try to find peace, and try to find the enjoyment at what your child has learnt through youth sports and what they’ll continue to get out of it.

Thirdly, most of us don’t realise what gushes from our mouths when we’re caught up in the middle of competition. I’m still astounded what happens to some men and women when they cross that white line in a sport and they become a totally different species. Most of the time they don’t even realise the metamorphous that has just taken place.

But each one of us expresses ourselves differently when competing. We all reveal something about ourselves when watching our kids play. And when we see someone competing on the sidelines in a questionable manner we will cast judgment on them, and it’s time to compete against them in our own way.

Bottom line, there is no panacea to fix our competitive spirit. My only thought is to have self-inflicted surgery the same way we desex cats and dogs, but that isn’t about to happen, is it. By the way, I’m joking.

But what we have as human beings is the potential ability to show self-control; to be able to reason; and to contemplate the future of what is best for your relationship between you and your young star. I know this is frustrating and creates much anxiety.  And I know you think you can make the difference… and Lord forbid you ever think of becoming like the actor who played Tonya Harding’s mother in the movie, “I Tonya”.

Parents please compete; please show your child you’re their number one fan; please show them you’re on their side with all your love whether they win or lose, pass or fail, which I’m sure you do already. Just know this: your child will imitate your behavior, and by your behavior, you will either draw them nearer to you or push them further from you. There is no neutrality here.

In the end, however, what you may want, they may not want. To the reasoning parent, this should bring a bit of balance to our natural competitive spirit.

Mark Maguire

Parents, All They Hear Is QUACK QUACK.

Parents, All They Hear Is QUACK QUACK.

“Do you think he hears what you’re saying?”
“If the coach did his job I wouldn’t have to say anything.”
“So, if he did, you wouldn’t say anything?”
“I can’t help it; he’s my kid, I can say what I like.”
“Yeah you can, but all they hear is quack quack.”

A few years ago I wrote an article called, Dad! It Doesn’t Help! It was about what I learned about myself when I was told by my eleven year old son my quacking doesn’t help; in fact, he didn’t even listen to my quacking, that my quacking fell on deaf ears.

I’d quack loudly instructions, as he was about to bat; I’d sneak behind the dugout and quack softly more instructions; I’d even worked out secret duck calls so only he could understand what I was quacking about. My son also told me none of the kids liked their parents quacking.

But still we quacked because we thought our quacking made a difference; and of course, quacking is a great stress relief.

Most of us do well at keeping ourselves together by not blurting out our stress and frustration. Yet, even for the best of us, the pressure cooker explodes. We are simmering. The heat is turned up. We think the lid is secure. But there it is. Everybody is now wary of the exploding pot.

Your child only hears the QUACK QUACK.

A duck moves gracefully across the lake. What we see up top is different to what we don’t see below the water’s surface—feat paddling at rapid speed.

We couldn’t keep those little paddling feet to just turning over and over inside of us. We feel we must protect and defend the mistakes of our kids, the good of the game, and especially let the umpire know his judgment is floored.

At a recent national baseball championship my son was about to pitch. A scout asked me, do you get nervous and stressed when you see him out there? I said, not while he is pitching because he doesn’t see himself as a pitcher. The scout said, even though his son is in his twenties and plays the game not at a high level, he still is a mess inside watching his son when he is playing. I said, I only really feel it and am churning up inside every time my son is batting.

No matter who we are, we all feel it.

Whether it is because we relate to a parent duck and we want to protect our ducklings from anything that will harm them. Or, we can’t bear watching our child in a stressful, competitive environment. Or, perhaps, because there are fourteen of our genes in him or her (the other fourteen from our partner), and half of you is also out on the playing field and so you have a right to be a part of the action.

To react; to protect; to quack, is perfectly natural.

I’m not an advocate to tell parents they shouldn’t quack. But there are different forms of quacking: from harmless shouts of general encouragement; to interfering parents who feel they must keep on instructing; to some who know their judgment call is far better than the volunteer managing the game.

This is how I learnt to stop quacking.

I asked my son if it helped. I asked him what he thought of it. I got his perspective. Of course, I justified myself to him to why I quacked. Yet, for the first time I realised, this is not about me. I’m going to have to deal with my internal duck feet kicking over in my chest another way: perhaps breathe deeply, and smile, and continually remind myself it is just a game.

I made the decision to STOP. That’s it, no more. I want him to enjoy the game. I want to protect our father/son relationship and not let my ego and quacking get in the way. And, of course, I learnt to breathe deeply, smile, and remind myself it is just a game.

I decided I wasn’t going to just try to stop. Either I stop or don’t stop. If I don’t decide I’ll continue to quack. I wanted to help him by getting out of the way. That’s right, can you believe we can get in the way—a lot.

And I decided I wasn’t going to say anything in the car on the way home where my instructional quacking was worse than my public quacking.

I chose only to say, I enjoyed watching you play.

If he wanted to talk about the game I would now let him initiate the conversation… Guess what; he did. Even then I chose not to instruct. If I quacked it was only to ask questions.

In the end, I am my son’s parent. I’d probably take offence if someone told me how to behave. I’ll quack if I want to, would be my response. But in the end, I choose to look at the game through my son’s eyes and what’s best for him, and what’s best for our long term relationship, and what’s going to help him continue to enjoy the game, excel in the game, and learn from the game.

Never forget, all they hear is QUACK QUACK.

Mark Maguire