Agony of Deparent
By Alexander Ketrzynski
In his article, “The Agony of Deparent,” written on his blog, “Growing the Game,” which appears on the USAVolleyball website, John Kessel discusses our often negative attitudes towards errors and losing.
Kessel points out that of all the teams playing at any time, half lose their games. He stresses that parents need to enjoy all matches, including losses, and appreciate the values and lessons learned from the journey. The journey must include losses as well as wins. As a long-time player, I mourned our loss of a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics for a long time, partially because a subsequent injury did not allow me the chance to compete at that level again. I realized later, when helping my own sons out in their athletic endevours, that I did not want them ever going through that same experience.
Kessel states that “there are too many in the sport who are whining, blaming everyone but themselves, sulking, crying, even threatening to sue.” From the media I’ve learned this is a much bigger problem in the United States than in Canada, yet I have seen quite a bit of it here in more mainstream hockey, and more recently, I found it creeping into volleyball as well. Recently, I sat among a group of parents of children between the ages of nine and eleven. The children were participating in free play during a volleyball clinic. I heard parents admonishing their own children for mistakes, and I even heard one parent telling off someone else’s child for “hogging” the ball. Mistakes are an inevitable part of the game, something many parents refuse to acknowledge. I’m pretty sure these parents’ children will not grow up to love the game. I’ve also served as an assistant coach to mature players, and I’ve seen players who are unable to take direction or enjoy the game fully because they are constantly placing the responsibility for their errors or losses elsewhere. I fully agree when Kessel states that “we must eradicate tantrums, verbally and physically abusive coaching and spectator behavior” from the sport. If we are able to minimize this and “teach the journey,” we will surely end up with young people who are more capable of learning and taking pleasure for a longer time, not only from volleyball, but from every endevour in life.
My sons have won their fair share of national tournaments and even the odd international tournament. However, after one recently disappointing high school tournament, I nevertheless had a reason to be very pleased. After the tournament, all of us got together to discuss what the tournament could teach us. After this process of constructive criticism, the boys moved on to ask if we had noticed the plays they had made that they were particularly proud of. They behaved as if the loss never happened. In my opinion, as a coach and as a parent, we should all do our best to turn every loss into a chance to learn and improve, while doing everything in our power to find some reason for praising our children and athletes, letting them know that we have pride and faith in them. For a fuller discussion of the topic and pertinent links please visit John Kessel’s full article here.
Alexander Ketrzynski is currently an assistant coach with the Pakmen Volleyball Club, and father of three sons who are also passionate about the game. He was a member of the 1984 Canadian Olympic Men’s Volleyball Team.