A Coach’s Predicament: the Star Athlete is Your Child!

The trials and tribulations that accompany the relationship between coach and child are many. This relationship is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and can be very rewarding.

As the child grows older and becomes more aware of his or her accomplishments and failures, the partnership becomes more binding and occasionally strained. As a parent who had the opportunity to develop a champion and world class athlete, my daughter Leigh, I welcome the opportunity to share this experience with others.

The anxiety that may have been experienced by both the child athlete and coach during the years of competition, is transcended by the wonderful experiences shared by both. During the early learning years no individual could have prophesied the successes that would  eventually be experienced. By the same token, the failures were also without prediction. Success is measured not only by winning or losing, but by all the factors that go into the career development of the athlete.  A successful coach is one who develops the potential of an athlete and reaps the benefits of the results. The outcome not only includes a high winning percentage but also the development of excellence in personal behavior.

During the formative years of the athlete, the relationship is one of enjoyment of participation with dad and the other athletes. The fascination continues throughout the tenure of participation but becomes one of commitment to the call of potential success. This dedication amplifies an established component in the lives of both father and daughter. While the desire to succeed is contagious, and it is evident that greater things are just over the horizon, the bond between athlete and coach grows stronger.

After workouts and competitions, the coach and athlete go home with the results. This is not a common occurrence with most athletes and coaches as most athletes do not have a parent as a mentor. This “taking home of the sport” is not unhealthy unless the conversation at the homestead centers constantly on the days practice or competition. A break is needed and other interests need to be pursued. If no other subject is on the agenda, life at home becomes a problem for everyone.

Members of the household are delighted with the successes and very disappointed with the failures of their athletic counterpart. Occasionally however, they do not understand why their sister has opportunities relating to her sport activity that they do not share. This concern, while normal, presents difficulties that must be addressed to prevent mayhem of untold proportion. In order to keep peace, the wife and siblings must be included and consulted in the formulation of the overall picture and a well designed plan of action must be established. The family must be part of the activities surrounding the athlete to the extent that they participate in the progress of their champion. This gives meaning to everyone.

As the athlete becomes older, knowledgeable, and more proficient in the execution of skills, a distinct characteristic begins to emerge. This characteristic is one of self achievement.  An opinion of this nature, by the athlete, is a direct challenge to the authority of the father. As this occurs, a new direction of coaching becomes an issue.

When this enigma becomes evident, a meeting of the minds of the athlete and coach is necessary to prevent chaos and a disruption of the learning process. Many athletes go through this feel that they would have been successful without the guidance of a coach. Never mind that a talented person taught them what they now possess, they would have learned anyway. Where this learning stimulus might have come from is an unknown quantity. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

We now have a situation where the athlete has become aware of the importance in the scheme of things. This is a significant development which, in the end, will shape the future successes or failures of both individuals. The time has arrived when the coach must share the decision-making process with his offspring. In most cases the athlete and coach will agree, however, there are times when this is not the case and only the performance results will determine the correct method. Success hangs in the balance!

Confidence and maturity of the athlete are two major justifications for this need to make decisions. It is difficult for the athlete at this point in time to distinguish between confidence and overconfidence. This newly discovered decision- making responsibility can be confusing to a newcomer and often leads to genuine obstacles. Overconfidence leads to ruin, while confidence is the path to success. It is the father/coach who must guide his heir in the right direction to see that success is the end result. A good relationship between the two principals is the key to prosperity.

Because of the understanding shared by father and daughter, an outstanding record of achievement was the end result. Leigh went on to win several World Championships and many National titles in the sport of trampoline and double mini-tramp. Her father was also acclaimed to be the best.

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About Jeff T. Hennessy

From: Jeff Hennessy Subject: Biography: HENNESSY, Jeff Date: October 12, 2009 2:23:00 PM CDT To: Jeff Hennessy HENNESSY, Jeff Inducted: 1992 Born: October 27, 1929 Most parents take walks and go on picnics with their children. Jeff Hennessy did these things with his children, also, but, in addition, he went bouncing with them on a steady basis. He produced and coached more World and National trampoline, tumbling, and mini-tramp champions than anyone in America. The champions included his daughter, Leigh. Jeff received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Northwestern State University in Louisiana and matriculated to the U. Of Louisiana at Lafayette where he taught, instructed, and coached the Swimming and Gymnastics teams for 27 years. He was nine-time USA Trampoline Team Coach in World Championships and took USA teams to South Africa, Russia, Germany, and Holland. He also coached AAU teams, intercollegiate athletes, and even Miss America, Judi Ford. Jeff has served as Director of World Trampoline Championships, International Judges and Coaches courses, AAU and Federation Championships, six National Jr. Olympic Championships, and the community service trampoline program for children. He has officiated from London to Japan. Honors: A Trampoline/Tumbling Scholarship is awarded in his name by U.S.A. Gymnastics, the national gymnastics governing body (NGB); Accepted as an honorary member of the Federation International Gymnastic (FIG), (1999); Honored to be a recipient of the Safety Award from the American Trampoline and Tumbling Association, (1992); Inducted into the International Gymnastic Hall of Fame (IGHOF) formerly the Helms Hall Gymnastic Hall of Fame (IGHOF) formerly the Helms Hall of Fame, (1992); Received international Trampoline & Tumbling Federation’s Lifetime Membership Award, Osaka, Japan, (1984); American Trampoline and Tumbling Association Outstanding Coach of the Year, (U. of Southwestern Louisiana, (1982); Distinguished Professor, U. of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, LA., (1992); Master of Trampoline, American Trampoline and Tumbling Association, (1978); Who’s Who in the Southwest, (1977); Gift of Honor, presented by the International Trampoline Federation, (1976); Elected Chairman of the International Trampoline Federation Technical Committee, (1976); Inducted into the U.S. Trampoline Association’s Hall of Fame, (1976); Featured in “Fliffises and Gazip-Gazaps”, Sports Illustrated, 8th Day, (1970); Received the C.H. McCloy Research Award for Gymnastics, (1966); Member of U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Committee, (1965-‘69); First Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Trampoline Chairman, (1965). General: Appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records and reportedly has been featured in more magazines, publications and newspapers than Donald Trump. Twice, he was elected Outstanding AAU Coach of the year and was honored by the German Gymnastic Association for his extraordinary talent and contributions. Personal: Jeff served as the United States Sports delegate for the AAU to Winston Churchill’s funeral. He was an advisor and consultant to USA Gymnastics, the United States Diving organization, the International Trampoline Federation, ABC, CBS, the United States Department of Justice, and Law Firms throughout the country. Jeff Hennessy has authored more books and journals about trampoline and springboard diving than John Grisham has courtroom scenes. His daughter, Leigh, won two World Championships in Double Mini-Tramp and may be the leading U. S. title-holder for women in the twisting, turning, and bouncing sport of trampoline. Sources: World Acrobatic Society “Legends of Honor” Newsletter, personal resume, and interviews with his daughter, Leigh. Introduction, commentary, and formatting by Larry Banner, Web Manager. Close
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