left to right: Josh Stewart, Fuzzy Levane, Dr. Susan Lipkins, Al Trautwig, Billy Omeltchenko, Scott Jagar-sponsor of Conversations from Main Street
Fuzzy Levane, a Port Washington resident who has been involved with basketball since 1945, describes his father's reaction to his basketball career as shock that one could assure success in life "bouncing a ball." His father, a musician with the Metropolitan Opera, is in contrast to many parents today who think staring in a sport is the way to their child's future success.
Fuzzy Levane, who is in the Basketball Hall of Fame and a former Knicks coach, was one of four panelists, who along with a moderator discussed how far to push your athletic child. The event took place Sept. 28, at the Jeanne Rimsky Theater as part of the conversation series under the auspices of the Landmark on Main Street. The other panelists were PYA President Billy Omeltchenko, Psychologist Dr. Susan Lipkins, and Sports Editor of The Long Island Press Josh Stewart. The moderator was MSG Sportscaster Al Trautwig.
One of the main ideas that came out of this one and a half hour discussion, which also included questions and comments from the audience of about 30 people, was that a parent's main responsibility is to make sure that the child's coach is competent. It was stated that the coach has tremendous power over a child and often will push talented athletes to perform even better than they thought they could and that a coach who is detrimental to a child is not acceptable. Dr. Susan Lipkin's handout states, "Most coaches are honest and positive role models, but not all are. As parents you have the responsibility to question them when their behavior is inappropriate. Do this as a group so that no individual will be subject to retaliation. By doing so you are modeling important group dynamics to your child."
PYA President Bill Omeltchenko emphasized the importance of training coaches for his organization. (A list of qualities of a good coach according to the president of the National Federation of High Schools is at the end of this article.)
Dr. Lipkins said that being pushed by a great coach is different than by a parent, saying that a parent's role needs to be much more subtle than a coach's. Although many famous athletes had parents who pushed them, such as Tiger Woods and Shaquel O'Neal, the panelists seem to agree that encouragement is the best route for parents. A member of the audience actually suggested using the word "encourage" as opposed to the word "push." It was expressed that the key is to observe if the child is enjoying himself or herself and that parents should be on the lookout to see if the sport activity is becoming too exhausting and time-consuming so other more important activities such as school work are not being short-changed. Dr. Lipkins made the point that if a child likes something they will push themselves.
Panelists stated that success in sports is not nearly as important as parents think. It was noted that while athletic scholarships help pay expensive college tuition, there are state colleges and many cheaper ways of getting a college degree, as well as financial aid for people who need it and that athletic ability can also help students get accepted to elite colleges. But the panelists agree in the end it is academic achievement that really is the most important part of a child's school career.
They said that sports, though, can teach you important lessons-team working, how it feels to win, to lose, in addition to providing the opportunity for exercise. However, only one in 13 million people ever gets a pay check from a pro-sport according to Parade magazine. All the panelists seem to be in agreement that pushing a child in athletics so that they can get into an elite college or get a scholarship is making many children's lives unnecessarily difficult.
"I was very impressed with the panel members," said Larry Tietz, a Landmark board member who was in the audience. "The moderator asked good questions and got the audience involved."
1. understands the age group that he is coaching (their physical and emotional capabilities)
2. establishes rapport with the athletes, their parents and his assistants
3. sets appropriate rules, and applies them fairly and consistently
4. has realistic expectations/goals for the team
5. is a good role model (in terms of ethics, sportsmanship, his own emotional reactions)
6. is open to communication/suggestions from his athletes and support staff
7. knows how to teach the sport
8. is organized, and makes realistic demands on the team and their families
9. disciplines appropriately