Leave the Kid Alone


Posted On: 02/9/17 9:00 AM

Hello basketball fans. The Old School geezer is back on the eve of the postseason with some friendly advice for some of his favorite people: parents.

As we all know, parents and other loved ones yearn for our children to perform to the best of their ability at all times. We want them to compete at the highest level possible and be the best that they can be.

We spent plenty of time with our little ones and spent lots and lots of money to make those dreams come true. If we are not personally working with our kids, we’re sending them to skills trainers to make sure they have the best chance to succeed on the court. Many people may have coached their own kids during those formative years of development to make sure they are on the right path to greatness.

There is no doubt that Mom and Dad are the No. 1 fans and top advocates for their son or daughter. However, the flipside is also true in that they can also be the harshest critic when it comes to their kid’s play.

This is when we can run into some potential problems.

Sometimes, constructive criticism can turn into outright overbearing negativity. Many adults walk that fine line with their kids and when it gets crossed, it can make for some very uncomfortable moments. I’ve witnessed many of those moments over the years. There are times when the parents come to me to complain about their own kids.

“He just doesn’t play hard enough for me.”

“She does not like to play basketball.”

“She won’t work on her game.”

“He will never get a scholarship playing like this. He’s terrible.”

Yes, I’ve heard them all at one time over the years. We all mean well and we don’t try to tear down our own kids.  It’s all done to try to motivate our children, but sometimes, a different approach might be better. That approach may manifest itself in just four simple words.

“Leave the Kid Alone.” Allow me to repeat those four words. “LEAVE THE KID ALONE!!”

Now, I know that is a hard thing to try to do when so much is invested in our children’s success, but at times it may be the best way. You have spent countless times and lots of money during this entire process. It is now time to trust the work and trust the process. Have faith that everything you’ve taught your kid will come through in a positive way.

There’s no need to ride the kid every step of the way. Cut them loose and let them breathe a little bit. They are going to make plenty of mistakes along the way. That’s cool. That is what development is all about. Too much pressure on a youngster is not a good thing. The kid wants to succeed more than anything and a little less heat from Mom and Dad can go a long way to accomplishing that goal. When I kid feels too much pressure, their play gets worse. They get frustrated and you in turn get more frustrated. Now, you have one hot mess on hands.

One way to avert such a mess is to…..Wait for it….Now, say it with me……”Leave the Kid Alone.”

At a recent tournament I attended, I went to watch a young man who is an excellent player. On this day, he was having a very hard time. He struggled the entire game. I noticed that his day was sitting in the front row and yelling at him after every mistake he made. Instead of playing better, the kid played worse. After the game, I watched the father give his kid a 10-minute lecture that the kid had no interest in hearing. The kid’s AAU coach was nearby and said to me “Man, I’ve got to talk to Dad.” My reply, was “No, I got this.”

A few minutes later, I talked to the father (who is a good friend of mine) and I gave him the magic four words, “Leave the kid alone.” I told him to sit back, relax and let your son play. Instead of sitting on the front row, go to the top of the bleachers where he can’t see you. You taught him how to play, so just sit back and enjoy your work. He can do it. The next three games of the tournament, the young man scored more than 20 points and made the All-Tournament team.

Another father I know well wants me to talk to his daughter all the time. “Can you talk to her for me.” Most of the time, I tell him no. I tell him, “She’s fine. She doesn’t need me to talk to her.” The young lady is one of the top guards in the area and headed to a Division I school.

One of my best friends coached his children while they were in grade school. They are playing high school ball now. When I told him I was writing this article, he bore his soul to me. “This is a great idea. I coached my own kids in grade school, and I can honestly say they have become better players once I stopped coaching them.”

I speak from personal experience on this subject because I spent a lot of time working with my nephews during the summer. I can be pretty harsh sometimes because I am a sticker for fundamentals and playing the right way. (Hence, my Old School Geezer nickname). My nephews call me “Uncle Earl Poppovich,” which is a great compliment because I love the San Antonio Spurs and Coach Pop.

But, during the season, I try to change my approach. I sit at the top of the bleachers as far away from the action as possible and just try to enjoy the game. It takes away any urge to yell at them during the game because that is what they have a coach for. It works for me and I have a lot of fun.

And that’s what I want for all parents; to have them enjoy watching their sons and daughters on the court. Keep working with them, supporting them, advocating for them and sometimes give them the kick in the butt that they need.

But, also remember, there also comes a time where the best avenue is to “Leave the Kid Alone.”