Every parent enjoys that moment when they open up the newspaper and they find a picture of their athlete child accompanied by a story. Hopefully the story is about what a great kid they are and how hard they have worked to achieve their athletic success
Newspapers love to report this kind of story because it gives them connection to their local readership. They believe it helps other young athletes stick with the hard work so that they can be featured as well.
This is a great situation when it works this way. However, there are some drawbacks to be aware of as a parent when dealing with the media.
First, one has to remember that the media exists for their own self-promotion. If your athlete child does something wrong they will not protect them. They will be very happy to expose the situation for their benefit since the media knows that sensational news will always sell more than nice news.
Second, the media can create pressure for performance. Once a media outlet has highlighted a young athlete they will keep looking for that athlete to perform at a high level. If the sport is an individual one like golf, they will expect a young phenonom to keep performing at an incredible level. This can turn a fun media relationship to one of embarrassment and harassment. When the young athlete is playing badly they may start to focus on what the reporter will ask instead of how to recover the round. This provides one more significant distraction to the athletic performance which can make a bad situation even worse.
Third, focus on an individual athlete from a team sport can start to cause resentment within the team. In soccer for example, the stopper and sweeper are just as important as the goal scorer. But if the goal scorer gets all the attention, then the other members of the team can become resentful and start to sabotage the play of the team so the scorer does not get more attention.
Considering all of these factors in dealing with the media, parents might consider the following strategies:
- Be selective of whom you let interview your young athlete. If you do not believe the organization or the reporter does a fair job-then refuse an interview.
- Help to shape the interview. Provide information that will be helpful. Most reporters are not prepared enough so they appreciate information that will make their reporting easier. Provide information about the golf tournaments they have participated in as well as other golf information you want the reporter to focus upon.
- Save the media reports but don't necessarily encourage your child to read or view every interview. This can create a negative performance distraction.
- Consider not responding to the media. One high school soccer team I know decided as a team that team dynamics were more important than media coverage. They made a pact that no one on the team including the coach would give interviews to the media. They would let their play speak for itself. After a season of soccer they were quite happy with this decision because as a team they felt that each member was important and no one athlete was singled out as the star.
- Read or watch other media interviews with your young athlete. Critique the material presented, highlighting positive information and potential distortions that were unfavorable to the athlete.
Media coverage is important for sports. Media coverage can be fun for young participants. However, discussing with your child the positive power and potential abuses of the media will help both of you determine how you and the young athlete will handle the media.