Pressure from parents can help, hurt student-athletes

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When the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball in 2017, they also got Ball’s father

LaVar Ball has made headlines with a variety of controversial statements promoting the basketball talents of his three sons — Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo — and their Big Baller Brand apparel company.

To some, LaVar Ball’s actions represent an example of what parents shouldn’t do. But for others, his passion is an example of how parents can be a driving force for the success of their children.

It’s unfortunately too common to encounter parents like Ball, said former East Lansing High School boys basketball head coach Steve Finamore. He. said he’s been in many situations where parents would come up to him after a 30-point win to talk about their child not getting enough playing time.

“Ball is terrible for youth basketball,” Finamore said. “He only cares about one thing — him and his kids. Very selfish. He criticizes coaches, which is awful.”

But Jon Fife, Michigan State junior and track athlete, said it’s important for parents to be involved. Even if some of his tactics are questionable, Fife said Ball is helping his children be the best they can be.

Fife said his own parents have been critical to his experience in sports.

“My dad had a positive impact on my life because he ran track as well,” Fife said. “With him doing that, it showed me that I can do it, too. Having role models like that in your life will keep you motivated to be the best that you can be.”

MSU senior Jon Simon, too, believes parents like Ball can play a positive role.

“I can see where people would say he’s manipulating his kids for money, but as a father, I don’t think there is anything wrong with LaVar,” Simon said. “I think he’s just a really good supportive parent of his three boys.”

Simon is not be a student-athlete now, but he played lacrosse and hockey before coming to college. He said his parents encouraged and supported him to participate in sports.

“My parents had a huge positive impact on my sports life in high school,” Simon said. “The only sport my dad didn’t want me to do was football and I was fine with that. My dad is the main reason why I played hockey. We used to watch Sabre games together and that created my love for the sport.”

Simon believes it’s always important that parents support their children in whatever activity they’re doing. His father would work at a radio station Monday through Friday but he always made sure that he would come see Simon whenever he had a hockey game.

But while parents can be a motivating force for young athletes, they also can sometimes cause problems. Finamore, the former East Lansing coach, said it can be difficult to deal with parents who are too passionate about their child’s sports.

“It is very difficult to deal with parents who are obnoxious,” Finamore said. “No. 1, the child will hear two different messages, and that is never good. For example, the coach may want the players to share the ball, make the extra pass, where the parent may want their child to shoot the ball.

“That has been a big problem in my coaching experience,” he said. “I once had a boy shoot every time he touched the ball. I later found out his father was giving him a dollar for every basket he made.”

Finamore said parents should let their children have fun in sports.

“I’m not sure whose job it is to tell parents to cool out,” he said. “It would be great to see a kid scream at his dad, “Hey dad, chill out and sit down!”

When it comes to creating a solution for stopping parents who go to extremes pushing their children, Finamore said he simply doesn’t want them in the gym.

“Don’t allow them into games,” Finamore said. “ I’m serious.”


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