Coaches explain the influence parents have on their athletes

Amber Grohowski, Staff Writer

When looking at the athletics program here at Wilkes, the number one supporters of the athletes are often overlooked. The parents behind the Colonels are a big part of what Wilkes athletics is all about. When you think about parents and coaches, you most likely think of them as not having any relation, right?

Both women’s Basketball Coach Chris Heery and Wrestling Coach Jon Laudenslager, can agree that parent involvement in college sports is a “major key for success” as DJ Khaled would put it. Coach Heery mentioned that he felt a parent’s role is “to be unconditionally supportive of their child and the team and that it is the coach’s role to correct and instruct the players.”

Coach Laudenslager added that feedback from parents is always helpful, since coaches don’t always know exactly what is going on in their athletes lives.

An anonymous parent said that they believe “parents are more supportive than they are involved” being that some parents are farther away from Wilkes and can’t always be there physically. The parent agreed that their role is to “encourage all players on the floor to play hard and play to win.”

Both coaches said out of all the years they have been coaching at Wilkes, they never dealt with extreme circumstances where a parent got out of control and had to be removed from the gym, whereas the parental source believes they have taken things a bit too far a time or two. The parent said they “are used to winning and they are very competitive” and when that is mixed with all the emotions that come along with sports, things can sometimes get out of hand.

Coach Heery believes staying positive and being loud affects the team play drastically and makes the overall game experience better. Coach Laudenslager said that sometimes athletes “listen more to their parents on the bleachers than their actual coaches because they’re just so used to hearing their voices.”

This is why he said it is crucial not to be negative.

Laudenslager, mentioned that an athlete’s upbringing has a lot to do with who they are as individuals. Parents play a major role as their kids grow up, teaching character traits like dedication, confidence, respect, commitment and many others, which are desired when playing a sport. Laudenslager says parents are used to being involved in their son or daughter’s life.

In wrestling, before sending their children off to college, parents would spend much of their time at wrestling tournaments, cheering them on.

Heery adds that it is sometimes difficult for parents to step back and look at the bigger picture especially being so involved in their child’s life in high school and their athletic endeavors.

However, here at Wilkes, athletic teams strive to be not only Colonel, but also family. Laudenslager believes his wrestlers “consider themselves brothers; they care about each other” and want their teammates to succeed both academically and athletically. The coaches explained certain activities they do to help create a bond between not only the players, but the parents as well.

Each season is a new beginning for them, so the wrestlers host a “Family Day” early on. Laudenslager says, this helps the freshmen and their families get acquainted with the team, and creates a stronger connection between the upperclassman.

Laudenslager also jokes that the parents bring an enormous amount of food that can feed probably half of Pennsylvania, the desserts taking up about half of it. The team and coaches are grateful for their generous donations.

Heery says the parents of Wilkes Women’s Basketball hold a few tailgates if the weather stays nice for the start of their season. This brings everyone together, adding to the sense of “family”. The team will also hold post game dinners after Senior Day and the Alumni game, inviting the parents to join.

“We usually have a game located where some of our players are originally from, and their parents host a dinner for our team after our game,” Heery said.

Laudenslager adds in that the parents even created their own Wilkes Wrestling Fan page on Facebook. He says it keeps everyone up to date on everything. Unlike other sports, wrestling is an all-day event. Usually, they are at tournaments or quad meets, making it very tough to do post game things.

Laudenslager said they will go out and have a nice dinner with the athletes and their families, for example, “Grapple at the Garden is a tournament we participate in at Madison Square Garden. We will usually go out and eat at Jimmy’s Brothers Barbeque after we’re done there,” he said.