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Coach's Corner: Sports Psychology - Letter to the Editor 

John F. Fidanza III, Psy.D., M.P.
Licensed Clinical/Medical Psychologist

Dr. Fidanza,

I read, with much interest, two of your articles regarding travel baseball, “Socialization of Children through Travel Ball” and “Dos and Don’ts for Travel Ball Parents:  ‘Agony of Defeat’”.  I have an 11 year-old son who has played travel baseball for 4 years now.  He loves both the sport and his team, and we enjoy traveling with all of the families involved.

I have two issues, however, with which I struggle, and when I read your articles I became curious as to what your experience and/or opinion with these might be because I’m certain I am not the first to approach you with these questions.  1) I have a 13 year-old daughter whose interests almost always take a backseat to the baseball needs and schedule of her brother.  How do you reconcile the needs of the other siblings and family members when one family member’s hobby requires so much time and financial sacrifice?  2) In addition, our children are unable to attend church regularly due to a nearly year-round baseball schedule.  How do I make peace with the guilt that I place on myself for that fact and the guilt placed on me by our pastor and family members?

Thank you for any insight you can provide.

Jackie,

It is important that we as parents make every effort to balance and attend to the needs of each child within the family, while enjoying an activity of their sibling. When the "free" time of the family, emotional and financial resources, and the attention from one or both parents is dominated by the sport, someone or something will be neglected. If this is to occur over a short period of time, or on an intermittent basis, the negative impact felt by siblings and/or the family is less likely to become an issue. However, like any chronic or maladaptive behavior pattern, if this activity tends to dominate the family landscape it is more likely that the siblings or less interested spouse will suffer.

How then do parents balance the needs of one child with those of the majority of the family? Parents may wish to approach weekend road trips as a "weekend getaway", where each child is given the opportunity to pick an enjoyable activity, such as a movie, put-put golf, swimming, a favorite restaurant, or visiting a museum that "all" family members will be involved. Moreover, by requiring that the "athlete" participates gives the message that no one family member takes priority over the family nucleus. This also sets the stage for the other siblings to become motivated to acquire an activity in the future where each can enjoy becoming the "center of attention" for a brief period of time. Teaching children the importance of sharing their talents and blessings with the family is more likely to be accepted and embraced by the siblings when parents allow the other siblings to become "participant-observers" in the family "weekend getaway". That is, by giving the siblings choices, and some degree of control of the "weekend itinerary" provides reinforcement for them to attend future family outings. Forcing the siblings or the "less interested" parent to attend all games, sit at a ballpark all weekend, and have little to no say in the weekend plans is more likely to breed resentment toward the athlete, parents, and for those family members to avoid future family activities.

Lastly, if a family worships when they are at home, then they should worship when they are on the road. Of course this may require that parents become more creative and plan in advance prior to leaving for their destination. But again, this can become a fun activity where one or several family members can be enlisted to research the church or synagogue address, dates and time of worship. The family can then "choose" the service they wish to attend that will best meet the needs of the family. If the tournament schedule is an issue, think about services-on-tape. Most local worship centers have them available.  Many hours are spent in the car traveling to and from the tournament. This is the perfect time to have family worship as you have a captured audience. Athletic participation should not take precedence over ones faith, nor should the family be asked to take a "backseat" or "holiday" from worship. It is more likely that families will miss attending worship services because it is not a priority to one or both parents. There is usually a church or synagogue within close driving distance of most out of town, weekend tournament location that offers multiple times for families to attend service.

Thus, baseball like any activity should be viewed as just one enjoyable activity that fits within and complements the fabric of the family. If the sport is used to enrich and broaden the experiences of all family members then it is more likely that family bonds will strengthen. However, if the sport is used as an "escape" or obsessive event by one or both parents, it is more likely that there will be fragmentation and family discord on these "weekend getaways".

Dr. John Fidanza

8141 New LaGrange Road
Louisville, KY 40222
(502) 423-722
drjfidanza@bellsouth.net
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Last Updated on Saturday, 24 September 2011 21:33