Vatican conference told coaches, parents must support the "whole player"

Coaches and parents need to get on the same team and cheer for the spiritual and personal development of their children on the court or in the field, said some participants at the Vatican's first meeting on sports.

"There's a lot of pressure to develop more elite teams, more winning teams" in youth sports, because "parents want their kids to play in college or to play professional" sports, said Clark Power, associate director of the Center for Ethical Education at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

But this often "leads to unrealistic expectations" about what kids can achieve and puts them "under pressure," he said.

Catholic News Service reports that Power said coaches should be helped to see that "you're not here to produce the greatest athletes, but you're here to help kids grow."

US Fr Kevin Lixey, head of the Vatican's church and sport desk, which sponsored last weekend;s meeting, said that of all the resources poured into sports coaches typically receive the least investment, even though they usually have a tremendous impact on kids.

The international seminar, titled "The Christian Mission in the Field of Sport Today," invited about 50 participants, some of whom were sports psychologists, professors, professional athletes and just "parents of kids who play sports," said Fr Lixey.

One interesting point made at the conference, he said, was that on a parish level or in Catholic schools a typical child may spend "20 hours with a catechist, but then spend maybe 200 hours a year in front of a coach."

But "one of the things we least invest any resources in is the coach, or the volunteer, even the physical education program in a Catholic school; there's really no vision at all of how sports should be played," he told Catholic News Service.

Another conference participant, Darrell Miller, a former Major League Baseball player for the California Angels, said "fewer coaches are teaching values and espousing those values" and parents, too, are "losing perspective" by not fostering these values in their kids.

Power said it is often the parents who put pressure on the coaches to hammer out a winning team or turn their child into a star player.

Coaches, parents must root for whole player, say speakers at Vatican (Catholic News Service 15/11/05)

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16 Nov 2005