A Message For Parents

January 29, 2015
By Kenny Berkowitz

In an effort to curb parental over-involvement, the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors (CAAD), Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, and Connecticut High School Coaches Association produced a 14-minute video entitled "Parenting Your Student-Athlete." Last August, copies were sent to every athletic director in the state, and in the two months since it was posted to the CAAD Web site, the video has received more than 4,000 hits.

"It's far exceeded our expectations," says Fred Balsamo, CAAD Executive Director. "Athletic directors love it, and the feedback has been immediate. We're getting national attention in the media, and in the last month, we've had requests from coaches and athletic directors in every state in the country. By covering this material on video, we've taken a unique approach, and it's clearly working."

Scroll down to view a low-res version of the video.

"Parenting Your Student-Athlete" is targeted directly at parents, showing a wide range of misbehaviors from yelling at umpires and criticizing players to pressuring athletic directors and confronting coaches after a game. In one scene, two players talk about how embarrassing it feels to have their parents pressure their coach. In another, a student-athlete defuses his father's anger by defending his coach's decisions and explaining how he needs to improve before he can get more playing time.

The underlying message, which is distilled into three main points, is to remain positive and supportive of your children, make the game fun, and keep the experience in perspective. "We wanted a focal point for people to discuss these issues, so when a problem comes up in the stands, parents can say to one another, 'Don't forget the video,'" Balsamo says. "There's a small, vocal minority of unruly parents who need to be brought back to reality, and by helping them see themselves through other people's eyes, we've been able to help them change. We already had one meeting where a wife said to her husband, 'That's you in the video. And you need to knock it off.'"

Balsamo, who has 30 years of experience as a high school athletic director, began collecting typical scenarios in early 2010, when he sent an e-mail to Connecticut's athletic directors and received 88 responses in an hour. A four-person committee was formed to write the script and a local production company was hired to shoot the video, which ultimately cost $20,000.

The footage was shot over three days in May with an all-volunteer cast that includes local high school student-athletes, parents, and ESPN personalities Mike Golic and Suzy Kolber, who provide the narration. It was edited in time for preseason football, when athletic directors started screening it for their teams and parents.

"I'm not surprised this video is so popular, because parent misbehavior is such a hot topic," says Balsamo. "We're having problems in athletics today, from budget to turnover, and no matter what the problem is, most of the time it can be brought back to parental issues.

"The silent majority of parents has been watching these behaviors for years," he continues. "This video finally gives them a tool to start changing the culture."

Click here to purchase a copy of "Parenting Your Student-Athlete." Below is a low-res version of the video for review.

Kenny Berkowitz is an Assistant Editor at Athletic Management.
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