George Mallinckrodt, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, MH6922

South Beach Psychotherapy
1688 Meridian Avenue, Miami Beach

305.297.6054


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Father and Son
A Case Study

The psychology of sports encompasses far more than evoking the best possible performance for a sporting event. For example, I worked with a man whose 12-year-old son was a competitive tennis player. Bill had expressed his concern that when he and his son John would play tennis together they would always end up fighting and being angry at each other. I asked him to replay their typical experience. He said he would be hitting with John and pointing out that he should get his racket back earlier, move his feet quicker, watch the ball and so on. I knew the name of his son's tennis coach so I asked him, "What are you paying Rick to do?" He replied, "Well, he teaches him tennis." "Really? And when you're hitting with John what are you doing?" "I'm teaching him tennis too." At this point I suggested that he leave the tennis teaching to the coach he is paying and forego all inclinations to "teach his son tennis." Instead, I suggested he hit with his son with the idea that if he had nothing positive to say he should say nothing at all. In other words be a cheerleader, be encouraging. It may seem an obvious way for a parent to be but I have seen over and over how parents can alienate their kids from a sport they once loved.

Bill returned the following week and walked into my office all smiles. "We had the best day ever!" "Tell me what happened." He went on to say, "I did what you said and just gave him encouragement for good shots. I had to catch myself when I was about to tell him how to hit a better shot. We never got mad at each other and we left in a good mood." He went on to say he felt like a huge burden had been lifted and for the first time he could really enjoy tennis with his son. With this I suggested he savor these fleeting special moments considering how quickly kids grow up. I encouraged him to maintain his new awareness and attitude not only when they hit together but also during tennis tournaments.

In competitive events parents lose sight of the larger picture often becoming overly involved in their children's athletic competitions. It seems there is no end of examples in the news where parents have gone to extremes sometimes to the point of assaulting referees. I have witnessed parents yelling at their children after a match in front of other children, parents, and spectators. Needless to say this is incredibly counterproductive and emotionally devastating for the child.

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  © 2017 George Mallinckrodt