School Smarts: U of L coaches give advice on nurturing successfu - WDRB 41 Louisville News

School Smarts: U of L coaches give advice on nurturing successful athletes

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Go to any young person's sporting event, and you'll see moms and dads cheering, coaching, correcting.
University of Louisville soccer coach Ken Lolla says coaching needs to be about reinforcing good plays and good decisions, not constant correction.

"We think we're helping in trying to catch them doing it wrong," Lolla says.  "In those moments, we're driving it down instead of lifting them up."
Lolla advises letting children make their own decisions in a game even if they make the wrong decision.

"On the field, you see parents on the sidelines saying, 'Kick it here.  Pass it there.  Shoot now.  Drop back.  Step forward,'" Lolla says.  "And in that, we make all the decisions for them."
Lolla says the end result is children looking over their shoulder, waiting for their parents to tell them what to do.

U of L baseball coach Dan McDonnell adds that parents shouldn't get too caught up in wins and losses or statistics.  McDonnell says, when they do, they lose sight of the real point of playing sports--having fun, learning to work on a team, and gaining confidence. "I think we have to be reminded it's about them, and it's their opportunity to grow--spiritually, physically, mentally," McDonnell says.

McDonnell has a son who plays his sport--baseball, but McDonnell doesn't coach the team from the dugout or from the bleachers.  "It's tough because I want to coach, but I realize I'm a dad first," McDonnell says.  McDonnell says his post-game advice sometimes takes a back seat to other concerns.  "Sometimes, we have to look at the bigger picture and say, 'This is a twelve-year-old.  He's worried about where we're going to eat, right now,'" McDonnell says.

U of L women's basketball coach Jeff Walz says he sees on the recruiting trail the pressure young athletes are under, even in elementary school.  
And, that pressure to participate and to succeed is often coming from parents.  "Let your child decide what they want to do," Walz says.  "Some encouragement is great, but if they don't want to be a basketball player, don't make them be a basketball player, even if they're good. What happens is:  they end up not wanting to do it."

Walz says he's learned from his college players what really works is always starting with encouragement.  "A hug, not always drilling what they did wrong during the game," Walz says.  "As a coach, I've learned, if want to get the most out of my players, saying something positive first before I critique them will always get their attention."

All three coaches agree children should be encouraged to try as many sports or activities as they choose.  It's never too late, if a child loves a sport and wants to work to get better.  And, don't focus on a child's potential for earning an athletic scholarship or becoming a professional.

"In the end, even if they play college sports, the reality is:  they are likely not going to be doing that as a profession," Lolla says.  "So, the question is:  what life lessons are they learning, so that when they finish playing sports, they'll be successful husbands and wives, parents, and people in the community or whatever profession they decide to go into."

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