Reflections from Camp – 3 Balancing Acts

Year 8 of BaxterSports Summer Camps has come to a close. It was the biggest and best year so far, thanks to the awesome community of dedicated coaches, supportive parents, and energetic young athletes. As the kids get back to school and we all settle back into a somewhat normal rhythm, I have reflected back at some of the lessons learned from summer camp. It boils down to the balancing act that is coaching/teaching/raising kids.  Enjoy!

  1. Balancing Patience and Firmness.  When working with kids, and especially lots of them, patience is a virtue. And believe me, and I speak for my coaches on this one, patience can be trying – especially on the 8th 90+ day in a row. Being firm in what you are asking is a necessity. Sometimes it feels like the two are mutually exclusive. But they actually work in conjunction as counterbalances.  Be too patient, and you’re bound to get walked on. Be too firm, and you’re bound to alienate. In today’s world where there is too much structure for kids in sports, we are constantly striving to strike the balance between structured learning and self-exploratory learning.
  2. Balancing Competition and Cooperation.  Conflict is an innate part of the human experience, and it can be a really uncomfortable one. At our camp, it’s not like we encourage conflict, but we don’t go out of our way to avoid it either. The kids are definitely NOT wrapped in bubble wrap and bathed in Purel. And thus are free to make some mistakes.  And time after time, with a little patience and firmness (see 1 above), conflict can be the root of a better relationship.  Last summer we had one camper leave after day one of a camp because of a conflict with another camper – this kid did not feel comfortable or safe and decided to leave the camp. We never want to lose a camper, especially since there is learning to be had when conflict arises!   This year we had a couple of younger boys who wanted to kill each other (and said as much – yikes!) – but with supportive coaches and parents they were able to work out their differences and actually become friends!
  3. Balancing What’s good for the Group and What’s good for the Individual. This is true in most sports, where the goals of the individual and team are not always the same. But that’s the beauty of sports sometimes – can you get an individual to sacrifice what they want for the greater good or the team, but at the same time, can you adjust the team to fit the individuals within. As we balance patience and firmness, as well as competition and cooperation, the camp is able to evolve to become better and better!


How to be a good sports parent

Here’s an interview I did for KGW news on sport parenting…

by Cathy Marshall, KGW Staff

Posted on October 25, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 5:38 PM

PORTLAND — University of Portland basketball player Bryce Pressley said he has seen some out of control sports parents over the years.

“One time a parent ran onto the court and almost tried to hit his kid, but the ref caught him,” Pressley said. “It was over the top.”

Pilots soccer player Erin Dees said she’s been the target of frustrated parents.

“I’ve had parents yelling things at me that college students wouldn’t even say,” she said.

But both Dees and Pressley said their parents found the perfect words when the competition got tough.

“They would tell me to forget about it and move on to the next game,” Pressley remembered.

“Once I slipped on a goal kick. I looked like a Bozo but my dad told me not to worry about it because no one saw it,” Dees said. “A sense of humor is good.”

At Sports Psychology Institute Northwest, Brian Baxter offers seminars about how to parent successful athletes.

“The biggest mistake parents make is coaching from the sidelines,” he said. “Often times they’re telling their kids to do something contrary to what the coach is saying, so the child doesn’t know who to please.”

Baxter recommends parents focus on the three things within an athlete’s control: attitude, effort, and preparing for the game.

He said those are starting points for effective conversations, and a positive pre-game message is also important.

“Work hard and have fun. That’s all I say to my kids,” Baxter said.

Once the game is over, he said young athletes need space.

“On the car ride home it’s best to let everyone decompress. Maybe say one or two things like, ‘I love watching you play’ or ‘You guys did great.’”

Dees and Pressley remember the long, quiet car rides home but also the long lasting message delivered by Mom and Dad.

“Don’t give up and follow your dreams,” Pressley recalled.

Dees said the most important lesson was “knowing that in the end it didn’t matter how you played, because they still would love you.”

Some awesome goals this week in MLS. I like the first one for the passing sequence that leads up to the goal. In case you wonder why we do so much juggling at camp, watch Diego Valeri’s goal (the last one). Gotta vote for the Timber on this one!