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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Danny Massaro: When pushing is the right thing to do

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Parents, teachers and coaches show they care when pushing pupils to succeed
By DANNY MASSARO – Squash Mad Guest Editor


The phrase “pushy parent” is mostly used in derogatory terms. It insinuates a controlling parent being overbearing on the poor victim child, who would do much better if their mum or dad backed off.

What do you think about this? Take a minute and reflect…..

Personally, when I look back on my life I appreciate the times I was pushed and the people who cared enough to do it when I needed it.

I remember particular teachers at school, college and university taking time out to drive me on. They liked me but were never shy to be on my case when I slacked off. We all need people like this and I believe it is a vital thing if we are to break barriers and push our potential.

Recently, I went to deliver a copy of my book to one particular teacher who, whilst always looking out for me, was never afraid to push me hard and give me a dose of reality when I failed to produce an appropriate level of English A level work.

It was such a thrill to give Maureen (Mrs Lloyd) my book. It was my way of thanking her for being one of the few teachers who cared enough not to let me fail!

There are plenty of people out there who will take the easy road with you, who simply don’t care enough about you to push you that bit harder and hold you to high standards. Are you really a leader if you prefer to be ‘liked’ rather than be slightly feared, admired and respected?

In working with high performing individuals across many sports, business and educational settings, I know these people have been PUSHED at significant times. They have been given seemingly harsh truths at times they just wanted to sulk and go into the mental landscape of “poor me”.

I only need two days with a person to find out their depth of character. The ones who are used to being driven, familiar with truth and who know life’s struggle is a challenge only they can overcome. In the world of achievement, words are cheap, intentions count for nothing, results do matter.

It is so easy to dream and aspire for goals; we can all do that!

It is so easy to encourage and tell people how great they will be one day; we can all do that!

It is so easy to listen to leaders who praise you, excuse you and molly coddle you with clever excuses in order to keep the peace; we can all listen to that!

What is not easy?

To push people when they’re already hurting. To drive people on when they want to give up. To point out the truth when the truth is painful to reveal.

The art is to BALANCE between the pushing and the pulling, telling and listening. Leadership is very complicated and particular to certain situations and certain performer needs and preferences. Pushing someone is just one of the many many facets of leadership.

So please don’t get hung up about the phrase “pushy parent” too much. If you notice a coach pushing hard and asking for much more, then maybe appreciate the high standards they are introducing your children too.

I have seen many a great champion in sport and life benefit from being pushed hard from those who really loved them.

I am not advocating a dictatorship approach by any means (as of course there are situations where people are pushed over the edge in inappropriate amounts and methods) I am just aiming to let you know that not all is bad if you hear the term “Pushy Parent.”

For more on this and simple tips to help you go from great to greater read my new widely acclaimed book “The Winning Parent” available on Amazon across the world.



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  1. Great article. Nice to see a different perspective on the issue.

    I think there are different contexts which apply to the term ‘pushy parent’. As the article rightly points out, a push, when done in the right way at the right time, is fundamental to personal development. It also implies that the person delivering the pushing should themselves be educated to a level where they understand what is necessary and don’t end up acting to the pushee’s detriment.

    The other context which can apply to the term ‘pushy parent’ is when we look at the uneducated balloon who honestly believes that their 12 year old should be winning PSA tournaments and who cannot understand or objectively look at their child and the stage they are at in their development journey. They loudly proclaim to everyone who possesses ears how great their child is and relate everything back to this point. I’m not saying ambition or having high hopes for your child isn’t productive or necessary, but it should be tempered with an aspect of realism. Maybe working towards competitive league squash or junior tournaments is a more realistic, achievable and rewarding goal.

    These same parents are the ones who relentlessly badger their child often with advice which directly conflicts with goals set by their coach, often because the parent doesn’t understand their child’s development progress.

    Sometimes we do need to push back at some ‘pushy parents’… or push forward if that parent is beside a cliff…

    • Hi Mike,

      Yes I think we’re on the same page. It’s a very individual case by case thing as some personalities react better to different all round approaches. Also some people are happy not to STRIVE for sporting excellence and that is totally fine. I really just wanted to
      point out that “pushing” people is part of a well rounded coaching toolkit for the youngsters who want to push their ambitions and strive for higher levels of competition.

      But as I say in the book “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!”

      So the message really is widen your toolkit but remember hammers are still a useful tool to help on the right occasion with the correct amount of force!


  2. I haven’t read your book, but based on this article, you’ve got this all wrong and your argument is irresponsible and unethical.

    If you’re talking about a kid who might be able to play on the PSA circuit one day, then maybe they might need a push here and there. However, you completely seem to miss the reason why people get involved in sport in the first place.

    Do all kids get involved in sports to go pro at age 7? No! The vast majority of kids get involved in to make friends, have positive experiences in a social environment, and build self esteem. Do you know how many kids burn out at 12 and 13 before they reach their prime because of “pushy parents”?

    If a kid is going to go anywhere in the top levels of sport, it has to come from within them internally. This must be discovered through a conversation that must be had with the athlete, parent, and coach. If a coach, parent, and athlete are on the same page, then the coach and parents should push the athlete to be the best they can be. However, this is completely different from “pushy parents” pulling kids from school to train a young age. In sport today, there is way too much of the later than the former.

    Growing up around squash, I never had the desire to go pro. I liked the social atmosphere and met a lot my friends through squash. In fact, most of the kids I grew up playing againt who were a lot better than me at the time no longer have anything to do with the game. They were all pushed by their parents and coaches, and guess what: none are pro athletes, and none of them are even involved in sport anymore.

    This is a very irresponsible message to be sending to parents. If a kid fails to reach their potential, 90% of the time it is the PARENTS’ fault for pushing their child too hard, and not for failing to instill discipline in their child at age 6.

    Again, I haven’t read you book, so I cannot comment on that, but this article is both wrong and irresponsible. A good parent should listen to what their kid wants, and that might mean just letting their kid be a kid. If the kid wants to be pushed, they will ask for it.

    • Hi Rick,

      You’ve “hammered” me there! A bit harsh calling the article irresponsible but you make some fair points. I don’t think it’s 100 per cent wrong either although I admit some people may see it that way.

      My book is very balanced and mostly relevant with certain elements of your opinions.

      Sorry if it upset you. It was intended to come across as balanced.


      • I don’t think my comment is harsh at all. As a younger squash coach, I can’t tell you how many times a parent has either come on court to bemoan their child or barked commands at them from behind the glass during a lesson or match. Here in Canada, they have resorted to allowing ice hockey referees to ban particular parents from watching their kids from playing due to the parent’s conduct in the stands. Parents need to generally back off and let coaches do their jobs. Believe me: the last thing we need in sport is more pushy parents.

  3. Great article.

    Rick’s comments are well off base and reflect his own personal experience and prespective than anything else.

    The ‘let kids be kids’ comment is the dangerous comment. If your kids want to eat lollies for dinner do we ‘let kids be kids’ and tell parents what they want?

    Since when do kids instruct their parents on the type of parenting they receive? Madness.

    Not all kids play sport to be pro. A very, very small percentage will. However, just like school, sport is used to set standards and help equip children with the skills they need to get the best out of themselves in life. It’s not about having a pro athlete production line.

    Children need to learn to be resilient and they need to experience consequences for their actions, which is something the ‘let kids be kids’ brigade often stifle. Finally, children need to learn discipline and patience, which can both be accomplished through sport.

    If children don’t like it they won’t play. It’s ok to push. None of us would ever do anything without it.

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