Have you ever wondered why parents support kids so strongly in sports like volleyball, yet are willing to cancel their weekly riding lesson?
Volleyball at Lower Grades
Volleyball, like other team sports such as soccer, is introduced on the community level, often Parks and Rec, at a young age. Sometimes the kids don’t even know what volleyball is, and their parents encourage participation. Every child makes the early grade team, and parents, sometimes with limited experience, volunteer to coach. A community business will donate T-shirts and maybe drinks for game days. Practices are scheduled rather loosely 3-4 times a week, depending on when the court is available. Players are expected to make practice because everyone needs to develop skills. Games dates are not known ahead of time but the season usually culminates in a tournament. This is a loose description of early grade volley ball.
This seems pretty normal but take a closer look at key points.
- parents encourage, transport, and coach kids. This is called parental buy-in.
- Local business/community buy in
- someone supports the team
- Uniform with shirts
- the kids have identity
- performance and participation pressure are applied
- Competition dates
- a goal
As Kids Get Older
After school sports evolve into teams with serious competition around eight grade, depending on where you live. Try-outs create a great deal of tension. The girls who make the team are expected to be at every practice and every game because the team depends on them. They also know other girls would like to have their spot on the team. The team proudly wears their school color uniforms. Teams practice everyday after school to prepare for tournaments where they might play for about 8 hours. Tournaments are grueling.
At School Team Level
- appointed pressure time
- Pressure to make the team
- pressure to do their best in order to succeed
- Pride in making the team or defeat in not making the team
- making the team means something. It’s a status.
- Pressure to make all of the practices in order to stay on the team
- pressure for responsibility
- School pride/uniforms
- School spirit
- shooting to be the best
- the goal
The volleyball coach starts out in a strong position. Supply and demand make tryouts competitive. And competition makes it possible for the coach to lay down the law. The coach has no doubt that competition is desired and expected, and the goal is to win. Parents accept the coach’s leadership and expect the coach to work their child hard.
- Volleyball practice is everyday for the competitive team.
- They don’t just have 1 volleyball lesson each week.
- Being on the team is an honor, not a right.
- The best players make the team.
- In order to stay on the team or make the next team, players are expected to be at practice and at games
- There are rules
- There are expectations
- Parents not only fall in line and support the program, they obey the coach. Here is my disclaimer: There is an exception to every rule!
- Team sports have a great deal to do with parental buy-in.
- Parents want their kids to be part of something.
- Making the team means their child is accepted.
- Parents want to fill their kids’ lives full of constructive activity.
- we live in a society where activity indicates quality of life.
- Parents want coaches and sports to whip their kids into shape.
- Parents know if their child misses too many practices, they can be replaced.
Volleyball kids have pressure from every direction. They are taught not to let anyone down- the team, down, the school, the coach, their parents, and themselves. That’s a ton of pressure coming from a lot of directions.
And is there anything worse than a parent who played the sport themselves who decides to motivate their child?
How we wish would could gain the same kind of support for our riding lessons programs from parents of students.
Is the Buy-in with Horses Different?
Frequently the buy in to horses is a slow build. It usually starts with someone taking lessons. The newbie rider doesn’t face the pressure of a season that lasts a few weeks, like volleyball, or soccer. The plan and goals for a rider evolve over time.
Compared to team sports, horses can be a loner sport. People learn at their own pace, especially if they only ride once a week. There is no hype about the team depending on each person’s participation.
Most of the time, positions in riding lesson programs are available and the instructor is flexible.
We have fewer participants.
Parents understand less because few of them have ridden horses
Instead of being directed by a coach and the rules, riders and parents are coaxed. Coaxing rarely builds a fire under anyone. And when clients aren’t coaxed, instructors are accused of being overbearing or choosing favorites.
Just for the sake of conversation, what if there were a team? USPC provides opportunity for team competition.
What if there is an end of the season championship goal, like in 4-H?
Or barn pride?
Or expectations and pressure?
What’s Your Opinion?
- How do we create some of the same atmosphere for our riding programs that is found in sports like volleyball?
- How do we develop parental buy-in?
- Should we have higher expectations of students for attendance? How about for performance?
- How do we foster pride in our program and spirit among our riders?
- What kinds of goals can we give our riders?
- What has worked for you?
Would you help riding instructors worldwide by sharing your ideas?
May your footing be terrific and all your transitions smooth.
Thanks for reading The Riding Instructor.
Barbara Ellin Fox