Jeff Farris
In 1996 at the age of 20, Tiger Woods started playing professional golf and began a new chapter in his then 18 year run in the public eye. At the age of two, Tiger appeared on The Mike Douglas Show along with comedian Bob Hope in a demonstration of putting skills. At age 5, he appeared on the television show That's Incredible. Tiger shot his first hole-in-one at age 6. At age 8, he won his first junior world championship. From the first time Tiger Woods saw his dad play golf, Tiger had a passion for the game. His entire youth focused on mastering the game both physically and mentally. For parents who want big things for their child, Tiger's success provides some great lessons.

1. Expose your child to many opportunities.

Tiger's dad, Earl Woods, played baseball for Kansas State University and at one point probably had dreams that his son would follow in his footsteps. When Earl starting playing golf at the age of 42, he developed a strong love of the game and spent many hours practicing. Earl shared this love of golf with his son and gave Tiger the opportunity to develop his own passion.

Not all kids will share their parent's enthusiasm for a particular activity. But, if parents don't share these activities with their children, kids may not know these opportunities exist. Exposing kids to a wide variety of activities and sports is the best way to help kids identify their own passions.

2. Foster your child's love of the game.

As a child, Tiger could not get enough of golf. He loved practicing and pushed himself to improve his game and his scores. His parents spent many hours taking Tiger to practice and providing him the resources to improve.

When a child shows expertise in a sport, it is easy to believe that the parents must have played a strong role in pushing their child to excel. When parents are the driving force behind a child's success, children quit at the first chance they get. When kids are the driving force behind their own success, then their success continues long past the time they can get beyond their parents' influence.

3. Don't hold children to adult standards too early.

Even as a child, Tiger was extremely competitive and constantly pushed himself to break par on a course even though he lacked the physical development required to do so. His dad came up with a "Tiger Par" which was always a few strokes higher than actual par. "Tiger Par" gave Tiger a chance to gain confidence and measure himself by his own standards of improvement rather than by standards designed for adults.

Kids need to gain confidence in their ability to play sports. Children's perceived sense of skill often determines how hard they work to improve. Like adults, kids invest time where they gain the greatest sense of accomplishment and recognition.

4. Don't push them too fast.

At 12 years old, Tiger was invited to play the blue tees (the ones farthest from the hole) at a tournament in order to compete for the overall tournament championship. Tiger refused saying that there would plenty of time to compete later. Tiger stayed in his own age bracket. Tiger always pushed himself to compete but was content to let his game develop before making the jump to the next level of play.

It is tempting for parents and coaches to encourage kids to move up to the next age or skill level so they can develop more quickly. Yet by moving too quickly, kids often fail to gain the confidence that comes from being one of the better players in a group. Though playing select or travel sports may have certain bragging rights, playing with confidence will have a better impact on a child's success over the long term.

5. Let coaches do their job.

At the age of four, Tiger's parents sought out help from a local golf pro who helped Tiger develop his game. Since then, Tiger has always relied on coaches to improve his game. Tiger's parents kept working with Tiger to develop his character and mental toughness but stepped aside to let the pro develop Tiger's golf skills.

Watching, playing and teaching athletic activities all require very different skills. Just because some can play well doesn't mean they can teach well. Parents need to seek out instructors and coaches for their child who are good at teaching young players and then let these instructors do their job.

6. Don't shirk your own responsibilities.

In his first Master's Tournament as a professional, Tiger's first nine holes were close to a disaster. The reporters were already starting to write off his chances for a victory. But, Tiger demonstrated a mental toughness that not only let him fix his game but also gave him the ability to rally. He became the youngest player ever to win the Master's, breaking the course record in the process.

Tiger's success does not come just from his skills, but also from his ability to stay focused and not become distracted by previous efforts or outside events. Though coaches certainly helped Tiger with the skills he needs, Tiger credits his parents with giving him the character and self-discipline needed to apply those skills. Letting kids get by with things because of their athletic accomplishments fails to give them the non-physical conditioning they will need in difficult situations.

7. Don't focus on mistakes.

While learning his game, Tiger missed thousands of shots. But he doesn't dwell on those shots. When Tiger was 6, he competed in his first international tournament. Tiger's first shot off the tee went straight down the middle. When his dad asked him later on what he was thinking, Tiger replied "Where I wanted the ball to go." He went on to finish eighth in the tournament, beaten only by 10 year olds.

In any sporting game, even at the professional levels, athletes make mistakes. They miss balls, drop catches, fall and fail to make passes. The more players concentrate on avoiding mistakes, the less likely they are to concentrate on having successes. Helping kids visualize success by not dwelling on mistakes is an important lesson parents can teach their children.

8. Keep the relationship healthy.

After the win at the Master's tournament, Tiger, like he almost always does, headed straight for his mom and dad and gave them big hugs. They had all sacrificed for this moment and it had paid off. Behind this victory was almost twenty years of working together to facilitate Tiger's dream of becoming a great golfer.

The road to any life success is a long one. One good game or one bad game matters very little in the overall scheme of things. Parents need to keep things in perspective and not let their own embarrassment or emotions get the better of them too many times. Parents who let their relationship with their child become affected by a sports performance will either see their kids quit playing early or see them hug someone else first after their big moment.

Tiger's Parents Made it Happen

It is a common myth that Tiger Woods' parents, especially his dad, pushed golf on Tiger. The reality is that Tiger Woods was born to play golf the same way Mozart was born to write music. Tiger Woods' parents didn't push golf on Tiger but they did help him navigate the challenges along the way. Tiger may have been born with the skills, but his parents helped match him with the opportunities, the instructors and the life-lessons he needed to apply those skills in a successful way.

Not every child is a born golfer or even a born athlete. Most kids playing sports today will find their life passion somewhere other than sports. For parents who want the best for their child, the approach that Tiger Woods' parents used is a good road map to help those dreams become reality.
Jeff Farris
Good communication is not only critical among players, it is also critical between players and coaches. Players need to be able to talk with coaches to get the information and education they need. Many times communication from coaches can be confusing or incomplete. Players should feel comfortable talking and working with coaches to fill in the missing pieces.

For some players, talking with coaches can be intimidating. A coach's age, experience and authority may leave some players tongue-tied. One way to get past this is to make a habit of asking the coach at least one question during each practice. The first few questions may be difficult, but after a few times it gets easier and players can start gaining more knowledge from their coaches.
Jeff Farris
Last week's post covered the 10 commitments that coaches should expect from parents. When these commitments are missing, coaches may find the team or a player suffering as a result. Here are some ideas for working through this problem.

  1. Assume parents are trying to help. In spite of what parents may be doing, most are behaving as they are because they believe their actions will benefit their child. Many times parents may be repeating inappropriate behaviors that were used with them when they played sports.

  2. Educate parents about best practices. If parents are working in their child's best interests but are going about it wrong, then coaches can give parents alternative behaviors that will accomplish the desired results.

  3. Communicate frequently with parents as individuals and as a group. The more parents and coaches are at ease talking with each other about small issues, the more parents and coaches will be comfortable talking about more difficult issues.

  4. Rely on beginning of season communications. If the coach has held a meeting early in the season and given parents a clear set of goals and playing philosophies, coaches can go back to those to statements to restart the relationship.

  5. Seek help from league officials. Don't hesitate to discuss a problem parent with the supervising league official. This provides an opportunity to gain insight into the parent or the problem as well as alerting others to a difficult situation.

  6. Seek advice from other coaches. With coach turnover, coaches are seeing problems with parents and parent issues that have been resolved many times by other coaches before them.

  7. Use parent meetings to form consensus and invoke peer pressure. Parent meetings are good times to set expectations for team parent behavior and discuss them. Parents are more likely to act in ways that they believe are supported by other parents.

  8. Rely on printed league statements and codes of conduct. In extreme situations, coaches may need to reference the league's Code of Conduct to warn that current behavior may risk league actions. Coaches should use the league as the enforcer of these policies.

There is no standard approach to parent problems. A strategy focusing on communication, education and enforcement gives coaches the best chances of resolving parent issues.
Jeff Farris
Judging the success of a season is something that is easy for parents to do at anytime. If kids are playing in a safe environment that is fun and that is teaching the kids to be better people, then the season is going well. If there are risks that kids may get injured, want to quit playing or are learning the wrong life lessons, then the season is not only bad, it is on the verge of disaster.

Last week's post covered the 10 commitments that parents should expect from coaches. When some or all of these commitments are missing, then the risks of a disastrous season increase. A lack of commitment from a coach can lead to an environment that has a negative impact on a child's confidence and enjoyment. If not corrected, this negative impact can easily cut short a young person's sports future.

One of the life lessons that parents often teach is that one should tough out a bad situation. Yet, when confronted with a season with a bad coach, parents should rethink the finer points of this lesson. Toughing out a season makes sense only if parents can be assured that their child will not loose enthusiasm for sports. Toughing out a bad situation may avoid conflict but is not worth the risk that the current season will be the child's last.

There are alternatives to quitting for the season. Communication with the coach or league personnel may address the issue. Changing teams may be an option. However, placing a child's overall enjoyment ahead of all other issues gives parents a good starting point to address the problem.
Jeff Farris
Athletic ability is not judged by doing something well one time, but by doing something well many times. Consistency is critical to an athlete's success. Teams depend on the consistency of their players to put together a winning game or season.

Consistency is made up of several elements that work together including:

  • Physical conditioning - Will a player's body be able to perform on the 10th time like it did on the first time?

  • Mental conditioning - Can a player stay focused no matter what the score or time remaining?

  • Skill development - Does a player practice enough to turn occasional luck into a regular expectation?

Actual games do little to improve a player's consistency. More benefit comes from working away from games through exercise and practice. If players want to become someone their team can count on, they need to take responsibility for developing their consistency.
Jeff Farris
Parents are an integral part of any youth team. Not only do they provide equipment, transportation and funding for the team, parents also spend much more time with the players than the coaches do. For teams to work well, there are 10 commitments that coaches should expect out of parents. Parents should be committed to:
  1. Patience - Giving kids the time and space to develop the necessary skills and passion for the game. Too much pressure to succeed immediately only makes it harder for coaches to teach fundamentals.
  2. Fun - Working to create a season of great memories for the future.
  3. Maturity - Helping kids handle the emotions of competitive play.
  4. Support - Working with the coach to help kids acquire the physical development skills necessary.
  5. Communication - Letting the coach know about any family or life issues affecting the players.
  6. Praise - Providing the positive motivation that players need to continue working hard.
  7. Preparation - Getting their kids ready for games and practices with the right equipment, rest and nutrition.
  8. Punctuality - Showing up on time for practices and games.
  9. Sportsmanship - Being positive role models for handling losses and wins.
  10. Team - Demonstrating concern for the needs of the team as well as for the needs of their own child.
Most coaches can run their season without having to confront a lack of parental commitment. When this does become a problem, coaches may occasionally be forced to resolve the situation for the benefit of a player or the team. Next week's newsletter will provide some thoughts on how to deal with this issue.
Jeff Farris
The start of a new season often means a new coach. Over time, the different backgrounds and styles of each coach will work to benefit a child's abilities by providing fresh insights and approaches. Parents need to help the coach make the most of the limited time to create the best experience possible for their child. Parents also need to make sure that the coach is someone they want to instruct their child. There are 10 commitments that parents should expect out of a coach. Coaches should be committed to:

  1. Safety - Putting player safety first. This means everything from refusing to play an injured player to forfeiting a game that has become unsafe.

  2. Fun - Showing an understanding that a player's effort is often determined by the amount of fun involved.

  3. Maturity - Positively handling the emotions of competitive play.

  4. Sportsmanship - Demonstrating the right way to lose as well as to win.

  5. Goals - Setting expectations for their players and for their team

  6. Education - Helping kids better understand and play the sport.

  7. Preparation - Spending the time to create organized and productive practices.

  8. Communication - Explaining the details of player progress, skills, plays or games to players and parents alike.

  9. Players - Demonstrating concern about players as individuals as well as about the team as a whole.

  10. Passion - Generating a positive passion for the sport and for fair competition.

Most coaches will meet these commitment tests with flying colors. However, there may be occasions when coaches don't measure up. Then, parents must resolve the situation. Next week's newsletter will provide some thoughts on this issue.
Jeff Farris
The following table shows the average height and weight for boys and girls from the ages of 5 to 18. Wide variations are common. Kids' height can vary by as much as 6" at age 5 for kids who will still grow up to be the same size. Girls and boys are very similar in average height and weight until puberty.































































Source: National Center for Health Statistics One of the biggest challenges with growth concerns the times when kids are out of step with their peers. If kids are developing slower, they may feel less confident and will need encouragement to continue playing when they are tempted to quit. Players who develop quicker may become overconfident and lack the work ethic to excel. These players will need encouragement to continue improving. Over time, most physical differences will even out but the process is difficult physically and emotionally. Growing up is hard to do.

For More Information:
The complete set of growth charts with percentile variations can be found at the NCHS website:
Jeff Farris
Cal Ripken Jr. is one of baseball's legends and today players like Alex Rodriguex still look to him as one of their heroes. One of Cal Ripken's childhood stories is of how his Little League baseball team lost the regional final. Cal gave up a three-run homer and was the losing pitcher. After the game, all the players were crying and miserable, especially Cal. If they had gone home that day it would have been one of their worst memories. But as it worked out, the next day another team took Cal's team deep sea fishing. Cal had never done that before. It turned out to be a fun time and a great memory.

What would have happened if Cal had gone home the next day and continued feeling bad about the way he played? Would he have quit and not gone on to accomplish a championship career? Players can get too wrapped up in their mistakes and forget to focus on their accomplishments. Players learn from mistakes by understanding them and not by dwelling on them.
Jeff Farris
The intensity and emotion of a close competition can easily carry over into post-game discussions. It is often difficult for coaches to stop trying to manage the game after it is over. However, post-game conversations are not a part of the game. After all, nothing that is said after a game can affect its outcome. Conversations after a game have much more impact on the next practice or the next game. With that in mind, here are five suggestions for coaches for post-game conversations with players and parents:

  1. Be patient. There will be plenty of time to address mistakes. Make a list of mistakes made during the game and then set it aside for review before planning the next practice or game.

  2. Be positive. Allow the players to celebrate their good plays so that they continue to build their inner desire to improve.

  3. Be communicative. Don't shy away from players or parents after a loss any more than after a win. Changing parental interactions based on the outcome will leave parents assuming the worst about their child or the team.

  4. Be objective. Before looking to player mistakes, first look to see if there were other things that could have been done better in preparation or motivation.

  5. Be candid. If you made a mistake during the game, don't be afraid to admit it. If coaches are honest about their mistakes, players are more likely to be honest about theirs.

Parents and players take their cues from the coach. A compliment helps reassure parents of their child's potential and keeps them from focusing too much on their own judgments. It can even help shape parental conversations in the car on the way home. Good post-game conversations can do more to bring a team together than any conversation before a game.