Don’t force kids into sports to live out parents’ own dreams – psychologist

Just wanted to share with everyone the CBCP for Life article of Ms. Diana Uichanco entitled “Don’t force kids into sports to live out parents’ own dreams — psychologist.”  Ms. Uichanco, a good friend and former editor of Baby Magazine, quoted me in this piece.

Click here to see the aforementioned article on the CBCP for Life website.

 Don’t force kids into sports to live out parents’ own dreams – psychologist
by Diana Uichanco

MANILA, Nov. 13, 2011–Parents need to make sure that their driving their children to excel is not motivated by their own frustrated ambitions which they long to see fulfilled in their children, said a psychologist.

While many parents strive to expose their young children to sports and encourage them to try these out — sometimes several at a time — more is not necessarily better. And though trying to discover where the little ones’ natural talents lie is a good thing, parents must see to it that they are not forcing the little ones as a way of reliving “old glory days” or fulfilling frustrated dreams.

Whose dreams are we talking about anyway?

“In some instances, overly enthusiastic parents who are involved in every aspect of their child’s training, need to take a moment in order to assess their true involvement in their child’s sport,” said sports and counseling psychologist Tedi Villasor, Ph.D., who holds private practice at the Makati Medical Center.

“Parents should ask themselves, ‘Am I living my athletic dreams through my child?’ If so, they need to immediately establish or re-establish their boundaries and constantly remind themselves of the reasons why they made their child take up the sport in the first place (e.g., fun, to learn discipline, life skills, etc.).”

Villasor, who also writes the “Understanding your Child” column for the monthly parenting magazine Baby, explained that as the child develops more skill in a particular sport or art, it may be easy for both the child and the parent to lose sight of the reason why the field was initially pursued in the first place.  The older the child is, the easier it will be for the parents to start looking “towards the greener pastures present in a sports career.

Putting pressure on the child, albeit unconsciously, may lead to a more driven athlete but this is likely to put a strain on the relationship between parent and child and adversely affect the family as well in the long run.

Further, not only will the pressure and the time devoted to the sport take their toll on family relations — the child’s academic life may suffer, too. Hence, according to the psychologist, “parents need to sit down and consider the difficult path that they will be choosing for their child by asking themselves the following questions:

  • How dedicated is my child to this sport?  Did he select it?
  • Realistically, is my child that gifted in his chosen sport?
  • If so, can he work towards his sports goal and continue his  studies at the same time?
  • How would this affect his social life?  The child’s ability to interact with others?

Should it be decided that their child’s studies be put on hold in order to further their sports career, parents need to also take into account that the window of opportunity provided to athletes is quite small.”

With that said, Villasor explained, parents should consider whether this game is worth giving up or postponing an education that could [benefit the child] a lifetime.

“Parents themselves should also refrain from going overboard and instead think of their child’s athletic career as a journey:  If it happens then it is meant to be.  This mindset offsets any potential pressure on the child and allows them to simply have fun,” Villasor explained.

“As in anything in life, it helps if the the child has ‘ownership’ of his chosen sport,” he added.

“What I mean is, if he is intrinsically motivated to engage in sports, the parent need not drag him to the court or field. The child will be the one to do that because of his interest.  This, of course, doesn’t happen overnight and it takes a lot of trial-and-error.  Patience on the part of the parent is a premium.” (CBCP for Life)

“It’s All In The Mind” by Mr. Joaquin M. Henson of The Philippine Star

Photo opportunity with The Dean during the opening of the Dr. Romeo H. Gustilo NeuroSciences Center in the Makati Medical Center last May 24, 2011.

Sitting down with The Dean

I sat down with respected columnist Mr. Quinito M. Henson awhile back and talked about Sport Psychology and its potential benefits in Philippine Sports.

Click here to read the full article on Mr. Henson’s website – “The Dean’s Corner.”

“It’s all in the mind”

Mr. Joaquin M. Henson
The Dean’s Corner (Website)
Sporting Chance (The Philippine Star)

For any sports psychologist, the challenge is being able to relate to an athlete so there is something positive that can be done to enhance performance. Because athletes are often pressed for time to practice and get ready for a game or an event, it’s not easy to schedule a session where they’re able to unwind in quality minutes with a “shrink.”

Realistically, athletes don’t prioritize meetings with a counselor. They seem to think they’re being put in a box and dissected. The notion is if you confer with a “shrink,” there must be something wrong with your marbles. Of course, that’s not so. An athlete may be mentally in the pink of health and could still benefit from a session with a sports psychologist whose perspective is to inspire an attitude, not expose a disorder.

“It’s all in the mind” – The Philippine Star (11-9-11)

Dr. Tedi Villasor, 35, says when he attends to an athlete, it’s usually a “catch-as-you-can” encounter. “I understand the work-driven schedule of athletes where they spend long hours in training or practice or preparing for a game,” he notes. “I know I have to sometimes go out there on the field or on the court to get a few minutes in. It could take anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour. A catch-as-you-can encounter could take two to five minutes only. But the idea is to develop a close relationship and establish rapport. It’s also access to a service.”

Dr. Villasor has extensive experience with athletes in basketball, golf, swimming and tennis. He has worked with individuals and teams alike. “I don’t advise, I suggest,” he explains. “I think there is a genuine need to provide athletes with support from a sports psychologist. Any sport can benefit from it. How important is mental balance to an athlete? Think of a three-legged stool. One leg is the spiritual base. The second leg is the physical base. And the third leg is the mental base. You remove any one of those legs and the stool collapses. A stool is strong only if those three legs are upright. You take away one and you take away the balance.”

* * *

The College of Saint Benilde – DLS

Dr. Villasor, a bachelor, comes from a professional family background. His father Edwin, a lawyer, is the deputy administrator of the Supreme Court and his mother Dr. Teresa is a well-known clinical psychologist. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, major in computer applications, at St. Benilde in 1998 then finished with a master’s degree in guidance and counseling at La Salle in 2002. Dr. Villasor went on to become a doctor in counseling psychology with his La Salle dissertation focused on help-seeking behavior of male basketball players. He has a certificate in sports counseling from San Diego University and is working on a second doctorate in sports psychology. Dr. Villasor is presently connected with the Makati Medical Center active staff.

“My preference is working with basketball players,” says Dr. Villasor who was with the professional staff of the Toyota Otis Sparks during the 2008-09 PBL PG Flex Linoleum Cup. “Sometimes, a player goes to his coach to consult on an issue that isn’t directly basketball-related. A coach is usually a non-mental health practitioner so the issue is passed on to a sports psychologist who is in the support staff. As a sports psychologist, my job is to make sure athletes are mentally focused. My goal isn’t to deliver a title or a trophy – they would be bi-products of the effort to enhance performance and create rapport.”

Dr. Villasor says Fil-foreign athletes often need counseling particularly during the acclimatization period. “The ability to adapt to a new environment is crucial,” he points out. “Anybody needs help in different ways. Some athletes have a tendency for tough-guy support. In the context of a team, the priority is the team as a whole and personal needs of an individual athlete are secondary. I remember working with a player once who got hurt on a daredevil drive, slipped on the court and hurt his lower back.  My role was to reassure the player, explain the importance of rest and motivate him to work his way back.”

Sacramento Kings point guard Bobby Hurley (left) was limited to 19 games in his rookie season as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident (1993).

Dr. Villasor cites the case of guard Bobby Hurley, the NCAA’s all-time assist leader who led Duke University to back-to-back championships. Hurley suffered life-threatening injuries in a vehicular accident during his NBA rookie season in 1993-94. He miraculously recovered after a year and went on to play five seasons in the pros.

* * *

“In the NBA, rookies are given pointers on attitude during a pre-season orientation,” says Dr. Villasor. “They’re told how to relate with hordes of media and how to prepare for life after sports. As you will note, the accent is attitude or mental well-being. Of course, they’re also advised on financial investments because it’s like they just won the lottery with their big contracts. My San Diego University thesis adviser Dr. Cristina Versari of Brazil has experience with NBA players.  I recall she mentioned once that the quiet players are centers and the guards are usually vocal. I’m also told that the Boston Celtics administers psychological tests with their rookies. Coach Phil Jackson took psychology subjects to be better able to connect with his players. Obviously, sports psychologists must be well-versed in sports so they can counsel on career transitions.”

When a team or a player is on a slump, a sports psychologist may be able to help in arresting the skid. “It takes time to build a championship team, sometimes with luck and lots of talent,” he says. “A sports psychologist could contribute in creating a positive or winning atmosphere. In golf, focus is essential. You play against the course and against yourself. A golfer with a day job often doesn’t talk to others in the office and can get upset over little things. If he’s out of his elements, he could experience some kind of shock.”

Dr. Villasor says there are basic psychological types of athletes and a sports psychologist must be prepared to take the right approach in order to develop a relationship based on trust. “For instance, a Jordan type wants to be an expert in his craft, wants to be the best, wants to have fun being the best, doesn’t consider basketball a job, takes chances, lets his game speak for itself, is loyal to his teammates and friends and is fairly insubordinate in that he sees rules as confining,” he notes. “It’s key for a sports psychologist to understand an athlete’s type if he falls into any classification at all. Being sensitive to the athlete is vital.”