Whether it’s a win or a loss, youth sporting events can become emotionally charged – and quickly. But if you start a heated argument with the coach, you might wind up destroying the positive aspects of youth sports for everyone, including your child – and earn yourself a not-so stellar reputation on the court, in the gym or on the playing field.
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This is why many coaches have a ground rule for parents called the 24-Hour Rule: Parents are banned from discussing a game, a play or a strategy with a coach for at least 24 hours after the contest.
This approach moves the discussion away from the players and gives parents a chance to quell their emotions and resolve a disagreement rationally. The beneficiary of the 24-Hour Rule? Your children.
The 24-Hour Rule is a good way for parents to take a breath and decide whether their concern really is a matter of fairness or an intense emotional reaction forged in the heat of competition, says pediatric behavioral specialist Thomas W. Frazier, PhD.
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The 24-Hour Rule is an example of a guideline that can be helpful to coaches and parents, both of whom struggle with handling the emotional reactions that are common in sports, Dr. Frazier says.
“I understand why people want to react, but it’s very easy as a parent to get caught up in the moment,” says Dr. Frazier, who coaches youth basketball. “The 24-Hour Rule can help people formulate a better response that is more persuasive than argumentative.”
The coach needs to set the expectations and boundaries for parents, and the 24-Hour Rule can be part of that approach, Dr. Frazier says.
“If the coach takes the initiative and explains to the person that now isn’t the right time, you get a much better result,” Dr. Frazier says.
The 24-Hour Rule also can be a useful tool for coaches who are concerned they might react negatively in the heat of the moment toward parents of their young team members.
“If a coach is aware that they have trouble with reacting to an upset parent, the 24-Hour Rule can be a useful guide,” Dr. Frazier says.
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Mike Fletcher of Lyndhurst, Ohio, knows those emotional reactions well, having spent several years as a youth basketball and baseball coach.
He explains the 24-Hour Rule to his team members’ parents at the beginning of each season and finds they generally are receptive. But sometimes it’s difficult for parents to check their emotions, he says.
“There is a huge emotional investment in sports among some parents,” Mr. Fletcher says.
There’s value in informing parents about the 24-Hour Rule, says Meghann Hubach, head varsity basketball coach at Magnificat High School in Rocky River, Ohio.
“After a game is not the time – whether you win or lose – to address issues or concerns,” Ms. Hubach says. “Oftentimes parents need that 24 hours to decompress and re-evaluate the situation, and think about the issue at hand.”
Think before posting
One other piece of advice Dr. Frazier has for parents: Apply the 24-Hour Rule to social media.
Social media, unfortunately, gives parents the opportunity to commiserate and develop a mob mentality quickly over something they don’t like.
“You used to have to talk to 20 people. Now you can post or tweet something and 25 to 30 people get it almost immediately,” Dr. Frazier says. “It creates a groundswell of upset much faster.”
It might feel good to vent your feelings and have other parents join in, Dr. Frazier says. But ultimately, it hurts the team by creating a negative environment that is not supportive.
Instead, he says, parents can help the team by backing the coach and other team members – even if they don’t agree.
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