This is your brain…and this is your brain on…contact sports? In reality you can’t just blame contact sports, non-contact sport causes a high number of concussions as well (that’s right women’s soccer – you too will be wearing helmets soon). But parents, its high time you pulled your own brains out of your collective ‘clavins’ and began to understand how critical your role is in the debate around head injuries and concussions in sport.
The sad reality is, as a parent you are likely living vicariously through little Johnny or Jenny hoping they can crush the odds and land a college scholarship and/or play professional sports.
‘Not me,’ you say. Yeah you. Think about how your living vicariously through your kids translates to your attitude toward their athletic endeavors. In particular, think about the attitudes towards sport injuries that you harbor. Although you may not explicitly say it, how likely are you communicating to your kids that you think sport injuries are a test in how to deal with adversity? For example, ‘Hey now little Sammy! Your fine. Rub some dirt on it and get back in there.’
It’s 2012. Time to lose the 1950′s mentality, dad. Kids are supposed to be playing sport for fun. In order to continue to have fun, their brains need to be functioning properly. As a parent, you need to grasp what your responsibilities are to kids engaged in contact (and non-contact) sports. If your kid complains or even mentions injury, the programmed response shouldn’t be, ‘ah, I’m sure you’re fine. Go get’em tiger.’
This is especially true when little Sammy is complaining of an injury to her one and only primary computer. The New York times compiled a list of recent serious youth head injuries in football. This compilation leaves you cold inside especially when you read the quotes from some of the parents. Let’s be clear. These kinds of injuries could occur in any sport. However, the common denominator in my mind is parents who aren’t aggressive and proactive enough in dealing with the health issues of their children in the context of sport. In many instances in the New York Times compilation, there were clues that a lack of communication between the kid and Mom and Dad were major contributing factors in the lead up to the serious injury.
This brings us to coaches. Coaches are also at the crux of this issue, but parents understand; they are YOUR kids. Coaches are not out of your sphere of influence when it comes to your child’s health. Just because these people have whistles, you do not need to defer to them and fail to address issues critical to your child’s well being. Guess what; they may not have little Johnny’s best interests at heart! How many coaches have built careers on the broken bodies and misplaced dreams of young people? Sadly, a lot.
So in the spirit of trying to provide parents with actionable information, here is a to do list.
- Check your expectations. What do you really want your kid to get out of sport? If your default setting is that you think your kid is going to get a scholarship and/or play pro sport – you’re a shameless idiot. Plan on continuing to have to buy your sport tickets through Ticket Master, not getting them through your kids future agent.
- After you’ve dealt with your own expectations – do your kid a favor and explain to them that their odds of playing pro sport or getting a scholarship are so low, they’d better enjoy playing their sport for fun. And then tell your kids why you hope they are playing sports and what you hope they get out of it.
- Then talk about injuries. Explain to your kid that despite tomorrow’s big game, that in reality, it means nothing. Your kid will need her brain to compete in the game of life; to read, write, attract a mate, succeed in business and have fun. Explain that all the media hyperbole about the virtues of playing through injury come from a time when DDT was considered a fantastic pesticide and that the media is referring to athletes making a lot of money with access to first rate medical expertise. Explain to your kid the importance of addressing injuries properly so long-term issues aren’t being created in their early teens and that you want to know if they are hurt.
- Then get in your kid’s coach(es) face. Whats their attitude toward injury? Whats their attitude toward sport? Why are they coaching? How do they feel about their responsibilities to their players? To your kid? If they won’t talk to you in any meaningful fashion, you know what, you’ve got a problem.
- If you think, you’ve got a problem with a coach, deal with it. These people are not untouchable. Make noise. Talk to athletic directors, association supervisors. Get answers. However, what I hear in response to this is, ‘well my kid will get buried, he’ll never have a chance plan and then go to the next level’. My response is this – ‘Bullsh*t’. If your kid is good enough in virtually any sport, they’ll be identified. This fear is rooted in the aforementioned 1950′s mentality that a scout would miss an athlete when the one plane from the big city came into town and the kid was unable to play. If your kid is a phenom or even just very good, try playing another game; try and see how long you can keep them from being noticed. It won’t happen.
Good luck! Or if you think you’ve got another opinion or suggestion visit www.facebook.com/paadsorg to leave a comment.