Not all parents are great teachers

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Go ahead admit it: You, me and nearly every parent whose children participate in activities sees things very differently when it comes to their own children. This includes everything from the 4-H blue ribbon at the county fair to “was it a catch or not a catch?”

This is a great spot to shine the light on how little parents actually know about the rules of sports from calling balls or strikes, onside or offside, infield-fly rule, interference or not.

OK then, define the strike zone. What is the difference between onside and offside in football? Now about onside versus offside in “real” football — soccer? Go ahead, right now explain what the infield fly rule is in baseball.

Now, let’s get to some other ones, such as illegal motion in football. In baseball or softball, how do you figure your son’s or daughter’ss batting average? In basketball, define the three-second lane violation or describe the physical characteristics of a throw-in in soccer.

Let’s say your daughter is aspiring to be a college cheerleader; do think you could objectively judge her routine versus the other two girls who are vying for the last spot?

I have great friends who have a daughter who was born with an ECU pom-pom in her hand. Fast forward 18 years to her trying out for the Pirate squad, only to be told she was a few pounds too heavy. There was not a gymnastics stunt she could not do. If 110 pounds on a 5-foot-9 body is too fat, God help us all.

Update, she finished her ECU nursing degree, is now married with two beautiful children. She still loves the Pirates. But, guess what, her children are now starting to play sports. Will she, eventually, feel the pain of one of them being cut?

Recently, I was talking to another friend who played on a state-championship baseball team at C.B. Aycock in the 1970s and describes it as a wonderful learning experience and even greater memory. This same man had a child who was a “chip off the ol’ block” and walked on the ECU baseball team, only to never be given the chance to play in real situations. Now several years later, both are happy, productive and contributing to a great society.

This phase of parenting, when you serve as a mentor, motivator, drill sergeant and, in cases where a parent may actually know the skills and preparation of a certain sport, instructor, is very important. One needs to know when to gently push when motivation is needed. And, to help refine certain skills, if those skills are just a hand here or hand there.

One guarantee, it is at the juncture where knowing when to push and when to back off is vital.

There has never been a national or world-class athlete, dancer or cheerleader who did not need some external motivation. If done correctly, and at the appropriate time, this whole “purpose” was successful.

One example about which we’ve all heard is golfer Tiger Woods and his father, Earl Woods, who had a golf club in his son’s hands by the time he was 2 years old.

But motivation for athletics starts with academics. Get your homework taken care of first!

Next up, the high school years. Play on the junior varsity team as a ninth-grader or the varsity? How about neither, play AAU?

Mike Radford, a former collegiate athlete and former teacher and coach for Wilson County Schools, and his wife, Maureen, are the parents of two former high school and collegiate student-athletes.