How To Conduct A Parent-Child Clinic

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I spent several years administering youth basketball programs. Prior to each season I would introduce a Parent-Child Clinic for new players and their parents.  I found this to be both a successful teaching method and a bonding experience for the participants.

I wanted to not only teach basketball skills but also skills for living, so I introduced to all the players, coaches and parents assembled the 5 Spiritual concepts shown below. I use the acronym, F.U.N.C.T., in order to remember and be able to teach these concepts more readily.  My purpose here was to help recognize and reduce/eliminate the negative attitudes about competition that adults bring into youth sports.   I realized too, that the administration, coaches and parents must have/work at having the qualities represented by these letters for optimal enjoyment and success of this youth/parent activity .

F=  Forgiveness of myself and others.

U= Unconditional love.

N
= Non-judgmental.

C= Compassion.

T= Truthful at all times.

 (This simple but powerful lesson for being and becoming is now part of every lecture, team handout, and indeed, my way of life.  Living and teaching these spiritual ‘laws’ is, by far, more difficult than teaching any other aspect of the game.)

I’ve run these clinics with as many as sixty kids, which means that with each young player I also had a parent.  Imagine 120 people on a gym floor, sixty balls going, and the amount of noise.  While it wasn’t total chaos, I do prefer 20 or fewer players. 

This is more manageable and easier on my voice and my sanity.  Also, with the average gym having six baskets, I don’t want people waiting to accomplish something requiring the use of a basket.

The usual age for these clinics is 8 or 9 to 10-11 years old (if the 11 y.o. is a newbie). Each child is required to bring a parent who will participate with them. Sometimes the child does not have a parent who can make it, but they must be with a participating adult. In this environment, the parent learns more about the game and will be able to help the child to practice at home. Importantly, the parent will be able to understand what the child is doing when playing in a game and able to better understand what is happening while a game is being played. (I remember how gratifying it was, when on one occasion I had a single mom who had never played the game, out on the floor in her gym shoes going through everything with her daughter.  She was having a great time and said she had learned so much.)

We start with a group meeting in the bleachers.  A clipboard and pencil is given to each parent.  On it is an introduction to what we are going to do, and of what my intention is for doing each drill.  There will always be something included regarding the spiritual nature of what we are about.  We’ll touch on drugs, violence, alcohol, language and demeanor.  I speak about what a better world we would live in when we believe that we are all One; That we do not have to be better than anyone in order to be the best we can be; and I’ll also include the practice of F.U.N.C.T. (as shown above).  There is an outline of the order in which we will conduct the clinic, so that all the parents have to do is write notes next to each item.  (I always emphasize teaching/coaching points and give more time to write these.)  The parents will learn through hands-on experience, participating and taking notes alongside their children, rather than being bystanders.

I explain that, throughout the clinic, whenever the whistle blows all balls are to stop bouncing and that everyone is to face me to find out why the whistle was blown.  I announce that the parents are my assistant coaches today and I need their help to ensure that everything flows smoothly and on time.  (Two hours is max for this young of a group, so I have to have pared down all the skills that will be covered and the amount of information to be given.)

The purpose here is to build a foundation of skills with which to play the game of basketball.  We’ll do things in a sequential manner, using a building block method. This will help the parents understand the different stages of development.  For each player, our focus is always on getting the pieces right rather than worrying about the whole game.  By focusing on the pieces, the game will emerge at each child’s readiness level.  (“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!”)

Parents bond with their sons or daughters as they share the drills. When parents and children work on the skills together, encouragement, praise, patience and positive reinforcement should be administered in healthy doses. We must realize that positive recognition is a tonic for self-esteem and that each child (indeed, the parent too) progresses with a different level of ability and learning curve. 

It has always been richly rewarding to be part of the magic that takes place during these clinics.  I can’t even begin to describe how it feels.  Parents seem to enjoy it as much, or even more, than the kids.  To see the parents afterward supporting their children at practices and games is it’s own reward.