Richard Shorter, the Non-Perfect Dad, is a sport parent educator and church pastor. We dove in deep to parenting, youth soccer culture, the coach relationship, sideline behavior and much more in our hour long conversation. You can find the entire interview at the (membership required @ $4.99/month or $47.00 year).
Below are a few video clips and the corresponding transcript – of our conversation!
When I looked at other parenting coaches, everyone all kind of had that perfect family picture, and look at me, I’m a parenting coach and my life’s sorted. And I just couldn’t with any authenticity put my name to that kind of brand.
I’m a dad, life is messy, I sometimes shout at my kids and I wish I didn’t. I’m sometimes more tired than I should be to have proper engagement with them. I think I’ve got good rhythms and good stuff. I think I am at times a great dad as well, but I’m certainly not a perfect dad.
And I think one thing that could really help us parents, is if we could just free ourselves of that myth of parental perfection. Particularly in the sport’s journey. Sport’s journeys really emotional, my eldest son plays rugby at a pretty decent standard and it’s not easy, it’s a really emotional journey for us parents. We’re not going to get that emotional rollercoaster right all the time and so let’s just ditch the perfect stuff, let’s just try and be honest, try and be a bit vulnerable, try and work out where our strengths are in that and play to that.
I think we need to be really careful about how we talk about other adults in front of our children. I am often just flabbergasted at how parents moan and put down coaches and things like that in front of their children. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with teaching our children to be critical in a … not in a suspicious, negative way, but kind of saying, “Okay, what was good about that environment you were just in? What could be better?” And that is a really healthy question to be asking our children about all the environments they’re in. “Who is a good teacher?” I’m constantly saying to my kids, “Who’s the best teacher you’ve got? What makes them the best teacher? What makes their classroom better than the other teachers’ classrooms?”
My kids are starting to notice what good leadership looks like and things like that, so there’s nothing wrong with those kind of questions. And I have no problem with saying to my children, “Actually, I don’t think what your coach did there was healthy.” But there’s a difference between saying, “I don’t think they were healthy,” and moaning about them, or being unfair, or being personal about them. I think, just how you talk about the adults in that environment in front of your children is really, really important. I-
I think firstly we play a lot of games in my sessions about just keeping it fun. The reality is some senior athletes are in it for the money, and somehow they manage to put their bodies on the line for money. But for most, it’s because they love playing. So I think our first priority is regardless of pathway, it’s got to stay fun. And when we take that fun out as parents because we’re pushing pathway, then we are exponentially increasing the chances that our children will drop out of playing the sport.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting our children to be successful in the sport, but actually what we want out of our child’s sporting encounter is that they make good friends, that they learn a ton of really important stuff about themselves. That they’re fit, that they’re healthy. And whether that’s because they play for the third team of a local side on a Saturday afternoon when they’re in their mid twenties, or they play in the National League, or whatever.
So I think for me about managing expectations, I spend a lot of time talking about the numbers. It is a brutal numbers game. And the reality is a small percentage make it. So, if a small percentage make it, I think for us as parents we need to be setting our minds on how are we going to behave because we’re likely to be in the majority. So if we’re likely to be in the majority, how do we help our children carry on having sport? How do we help them thrive? How do we help them manage the disappointment of injury or not quite making it? How do we help them work with those expectations?
But also, sport is a forward, backwards thing. And one of the biggest problems we have in the sports I work in, is kids who physically mature really, really quickly. And so I think part of managing that non-linear thing, particularly is if your child is excelling at eight, nine, ten, eleven, that’s great. But actually is that down to their physique? Is that down to a physical maturity? Or is it down to a mental maturity? Because some kids mentally mature quicker, so they’ve got better decision making and things like that.
Now, some children obviously carry that on. But the reality is most will catch up around them. And what tends to happen if our child has felt they’re a bit of a superstar and we’ve let them believe they’re a bit of a superstar, and we’ve let their coach believe that they’re a bit of a superstar, is that the non-linear, so it’s not a straight line, it’s not a straight line to success, means that actually they could fall out of the program, they could fall out of the club.