New year, new beginning for parents, athletes

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Back in one-room schoolhouse days, children were given clean slate boards and fresh chalk to start the school year. As we look to another year of school sports, may I suggest we wipe the slates clean? Parents, athletes, and coaches all deserve a chance to begin a new season free of biased baggage.

Give coaches a clean state
As a sports parent, it is within your power to give your child’s coach a clean slate. In some cases, however, that may not be an easy task. Maybe you’ve heard rumors or observed a coach on the job and have already jumped to negative conclusions, labeling him a jerk or branding him as spineless. And what if your child has been coached by him before and the experience was not good? It’s very hard — I’ve been through this many times, I know! — to put the past behind you and give that coach a second chance.

Parents must earn a clean slate
As parents, we may never know, and certainly do not have control over, whether or not a coach gives us a clean slate at the beginning of a season, but as a coach’s wife, I know this much: If you have given a coach trouble in the past, word has probably spread among the coaches. If you suspect you have earned a negative reputation — and admitting this requires you to be brutally honest with yourself — you will have to work extra hard at pulling back and letting the coach do his job. Show your support by offering to help with driving or working the snack bar, and bite your tongue when you want to complain about playing time or coaching strategy. It’s hard, but sometimes clean slates just have to be earned.

Athletes can work to wipe slates clean
No parent wants his or her child playing for a coach who has already formed a negative opinion about the child’s ability or attitude. Quite honestly, this could be a guessing game for your athlete because obviously, you nor your child can read the coach’s mind. If you feel your child is walking into a negative situation, whether it is deserved or not, what can he or she do?

Your child must work to get on the coach’s radar, be consistent at workouts and practices, be teachable by accepting and looking for ways to improve, and display a team-player attitude by playing the position the team needs, not the position your athlete thinks he or she should be playing.

“If I see consistency and coachability in a player, then I will do whatever I can to find a spot somewhere for that kid to play,” said Ted Meredith, football coach for 26 years and softball coach for nine. “Coaches notice hardworking kids with good attitudes, and often they reward those attitudes, no matter what they may have heard about the player coming in.”

Stacie Mahoe, owner of AllAboutFastpitch.com, lists five things you can do to impress your coach: be on time and ready; have a positive attitude; give your best effort; encourage and support others; and be respectful.

Sports is all about fresh starts. Each season, each game, each inning, each quarter, each match, each pitch — athletes are told by coaches to forget past mistakes and move on. Let’s all be generous in our forgetfulness this school year and wipe those slates clean.

Janis Meredith, a coach’s wife for 25 years and sports parent for 16, lives in Palo Cedro, CA. She can be reached at jbmeredith@usa.com. Read more on her blog at jbmthinks.blogspot.com.

Article by Janis Meredith, photos by SportsXpress