Step Away from the Phone and Return to Practice, Please.

girl texting

Cell phones.

Like Pavlov’s dogs, most of us are conditioned to respond to every ping or vibration that indicates a new text, email or Facebook like. And while there are many, many benefits to having technology literally at our fingertips, there are downsides as well. And those downsides are extending to your practices coaches, as you might have noticed (that is if you aren’t too busy texting…).

Look, I love my cell phone. I love that my kids have cell phones that allow me to check in (and up) on them. It gives me a peace of mind to know that they can contact me when they need me.

But it is one thing to be out in a public place, not under supervision of adults and where there are no landline phones whose numbers are in your possession.  And it is quite different to be at practice under the watchful eye of coaches and gym staff equipped with regular phones whose number you know.

Cut the electronic umbilical cord for these few hours; your child will be fine.

Cell phones tether our children to us, far beyond what is necessary or even healthy. Kids (including teens) are accustomed to contacting their parents to deal with any and all issues, including ones that are minor and ones that they should be capable of dealing with themselves. And, we parents are conditioned to respond with support and solutions.

When this happens during practice (and it does), we rob our kids of some of the major benefits of youth sports: dealing with disappointment, conflict and hurt feelings, advocating for themselves and having the discipline to hang in through the end of workout.

Instead of processing these emotions and searching for a solution on their own, kids are texting their parents to tell them that the coach is being unfair, that they are unhappy with what is happening in practice and that they want to go home early.

And we respond. We rush to the gym to comfort them, to talk to the coach and to rescue them.

Additionally, the use of cell phones during practice distracts athletes because they are connecting with the outside world when their focus needs to be in the gym. It is impossible to concentrate fully on what is happening at workout if an athlete is wondering whether mom texted back and if she is plotting how she can sneak back to her locker to check.

Finally, when we engage in cell phone conversations with our children during their practice, we as parents are failing to express confidence in our kids to figure things out on their own, to hang in through a tough workout and to develop the kind of focus that allows them to succeed not just in the gym but in life. And we weaken the coach-athlete relationship because we are unwittingly interfering in it, sending the unintended message that we don’t really trust their coaches.

In short, there are times we need to be telling our children to stop texting or calling us, and figure out how to deal with an issue—and gym practice is one of those times.

The gym will call you if your child is sick or injured. You need to trust that (and if you don’t, you need to speak to the gym or to look for a different gym…). There is no reason your child should need her cell phone for calling or texting during practice.

And dear coaches, please lead by example and put down your phone. If you are using your phone to videotape your athletes, leave it in airplane mode so you are not able to receive texts or calls.   Once again, urgent messages can be received by the front desk, you know, the old fashioned way us prehistoric folks all did it “back in the day.”

Everyone, step away from your cell phones, connect with each other live in person and get back to practice, please!