When Helicopter Parents Hover, all the way to the Workplace

Lonzo Ball celebrates with his father LaVar Ball after being introduced as the number two overall pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Lonzo Ball celebrates with his father LaVar Ball after being introduced as the number two overall pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center.
(Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Below is an interesting article written by Noam Scheiber of the New York Times News Service. The article goes beyond the extreme Lonzo Ball helicopter phenomena by delving into what some companies will do to face excessive parental hovering head on. I would suggest, while this may work for some companies to take on this strategy, it doesn't do anything for the future development of the young adult who needs to learn how to get on with their lives, on their own. Enjoy.

When the cameras started rolling Thursday night at Barclays Center, scene of the National Basketball Association draft, one of the biggest stories wasn’t a player, but a parent: LaVar Ball, father of UCLA phenom Lonzo Ball, who was projected to be among the top five picks.

As his son rocketed to fame, the elder Ball always seemed one step ahead, declaring that Lonzo would play for the Los Angeles Lakers; lecturing Charles Barkley on the psychology of a champion; comparing his own game to Michael Jordan’s and judging it superior. He is taking a central role in dealings with apparel companies and even teams over his son’s financial future.

But while pundits derided LaVar Ball as the state of the art in obsessive sports dads — an Earl Woods or Stefano Capriati for the social media age — he may actually epitomize a model that extends far beyond the arena: the helicopter parent of the workplace.

As millennials grow into their working years, with many of them coming of age in the daunting job market that followed the Great Recession, parents are more likely to feel a proprietary stake in their children’s careers, said Ryan Webb, a recruiter and former human resources director at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. The hovering is abetted by a full complement of real-time communications options — from texting to Skype and social media — and fueled by the desire to see a return on investment for sending children to college in an age of escalating tuition.

“Mom and Dad footed the college bill, made sacrifices to get that extra thing on their résumé, so they felt part of the process,” said Webb, who said that texting one’s parents was frequently the first reflex for the millennials in his charge after a run-in with a manager.

Brandi Britton, a recruiter with OfficeTeam, a division of the firm Robert Half, said she never saw or heard from parents when she entered the business nearly two decades ago but has increasingly felt their influence. She recalled a father calling her in the past two years in an attempt to get his son an accounting job. The father sent in his son’s résumé, scheduled the interview and, to her surprise, turned up with him in person.

“He was shepherding that thing,” she said.

When OfficeTeam solicited employers’ helicopter-parenting stories in a 2016 survey, they found this was not unheard-of. One told of a job candidate who piped his mother into an interview via Skype, while another recalled a mother asking if she could sit for an interview in place of her child, who had a scheduling conflict. A third mother interrupted in the middle of an interview to ask if she could observe.

While such parents, like LaVar Ball, may be outliers, and most millennials are perfectly capable of negotiating their own way in the workplace,some organizations genuinely appear to be struggling with a scourge of parental meddling. In her book “How to Raise an Adult,” former Stanford freshman dean Julie Lythcott-Haims reports that officials at Teach for America have been mystified in recent years by the volume of parents who intervene on behalf of their adult children, whom the group employs as teachers.

A Teach for America administrator told Lythcott-Haims that parents had called him with complaints about such issues as their child’s being disciplined by a principal or having a run-in with a fellow teacher, as though the adult child were still a student. (Teach for America did not respond to a request for comment.)

Andrea Colabella, a recruiter for companies like hedge funds and private equity firms, said that one of the crucial questions her firm asked candidates before they ever received an offer was, “Who do you need to talk to before you make a decision?” They do so to avoid any last-minute blowups when an offer does come.

“For millennials, at least those who have graduated in the past five years, 80 percent of the time it’s parents, versus friends or a mentor,” she said.

The data would appear to back her up. In a 2015 study by Robert Half that surveyed university students born between 1990 and 1999, more than 80 percent said their parents or guardians would influence their career choices after graduation. (Millennials are generally defined as the generation born between the early 1980s and late 1990s to early 2000s.)

The phenomenon began emerging as millennials hit the job market more than a decade ago. In 2007, the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University published a survey of 725 employers that found that nearly a quarter had encountered parental involvement in the hiring process and the early stages of workers’ careers.

Within that group of employers, more than 30 percent reported parents submitting a résumé for their children; 15 percent reported fielding complaints from a parent when the company didn’t hire their child; and nearly 10 percent said parents had insinuated themselves into salary and benefit negotiations.

In recent years, many companies have begun embracing the relationship between parents and their adult children rather than chafing at it, perhaps even co-opting it for their benefit, which some experts believe has largely defused the worst parental tendencies.

This November, LinkedIn will hold its fifth annual Bring In Your Parents Day, an event the company said has spread to scores of companies globally. Blair Decembrele, a LinkedIn official who oversees the event, said part of the rationale was the realization the workers relied heavily on their parents for career advice.

“My dad came to a few — he’s been really excited about what I do,” she said. “He knows my team, colleagues, boss. We can have much more in-depth conversation about professional career development with him having insight into that.”

Or consider Cornerstone OnDemand, a company based in Santa Monica, California, that develops software that employers use for recruiting, training and managing workers. Cornerstone started its “Bring Your Parents to Work Day” around the same time as LinkedIn, according to Kimberly Cassady, its vice president for talent, partly because employees were already toting their parents to the office.

“It was not uncommon to meet a parent in the elevator, walking around the office,” she said. “They would rave about the place but still have this question — ‘I still don’t know what he/she does.’”

Alexandra Geller, the company’s investor relations manager and a millennial herself, said the event allowed her mother, who flew in from Connecticut, to put faces to recurring characters in their conversations.

“She was able to meet people she hadn’t met in the past, who we talk about on a regular basis,” Geller said.

Perhaps inadvertently, the event has also highlighted some generational differences. According to Cassady, the millennial workers — who make up about half of those who attend — tend to hang out with their parents for parts of the day. The older workers, by contrast, tend to “come in at 10 a.m. and go do their work.”

Of course, professional sports may be the one corner of the workforce where parental involvement was very much the norm long before the millennials turned up, if for no other reason than that it involves adult children playing a kids’ game for a living. One can only assume that NBA parents have been harassing coaches for years, even if they only recently started getting caught doing so by fans with ready access to social media.

Still, there does appear to be something uniquely millennial-parent about LaVar Ball, who in addition to hatching Big Baller Brand, the family apparel line, has created a sports talent agency, Ball Sports Group, whose sole purpose will be to represent Lonzo and his two brothers, high school standouts who are expected to follow their brother to UCLA.

Perhaps most tellingly in this regard, Ball reportedly demanded that any apparel company intent on signing Lonzo license the Big Baller Brand, telling USA Today that a deal including all three sons would have to yield them $1 billion. (The apparel heavyweights all told him no, thanks, according to ESPN.)

While other prominent sports parents have exerted influence over their adult children’s business decisions,“I can’t think of anybody who turned their back on the marketing might and power of a Nike, an Adidas, or any of those companies, and said, ‘Nope, I’m going to do it myself,’” said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Baker Street Advertising. “It’s definitely unprecedented.”

As word of Ball’s parenting style has spread — he has reportedly been training his brood for the NBA since the time they could walk — some have compared him to Marv Marinovich, who groomed his son Todd to be a professional quarterback with a fanatical regimen that began in utero.

Todd Marinovich, a heralded college player, managed a mere eight games in the National Football League in the early 1990s and has struggled with drug addiction much of his life. But while his highly programmed upbringing led to his being labeled “Robo QB,” he says his father, in stark contrast to Ball, had no involvement in his negotiations with teams or marketing officials.

“One thing about Marv, he knew his limitations,” Todd Marinovich said in an interview. “In terms of representation, he knew he was out of his element.”

He added, “He comes from an older generation.”

Hockey: It Ain't as Easy as it Looks

In 1996, the inaugural year of the Western Professional Hockey League, I took on a job with the Amarillo Rattlers Hockey Team. They were in early start up mode, and I was hired as a consultant to set up their merchandise operations for the club. While there, we met some interesting people, including city officials and key members of the business community. Amarillo, located in the Texas panhandle, was, at the time a population of 120,000. Hockey was a foreign sport to the locals, all of the sporting goods stores were filled to brim with football gear. In fact, the nightly sports cast was inundated with junior and senior high football game results. Very little room for a hockey team story.

The city had one indoor rink, the Amarillo Civic Centre, a facility large enough to warrant a small, professional league team. Less foreign to the community was roller hockey, and the city supported a well-used roller hockey rink. It was a covered barn of sorts, where many tried out this latest of the popular trendy sports. The community leaders, who fancied themselves as (former) athletes, wanted to try out this new sport called ice hockey. Now they had been on ice skates before, so in their minds playing hockey would come easy. The club owners graciously offered to provide them with gear, sticks and pucks to try it out. They agreed, so we took them out to the rink.

Hockey, as many Canadians know, is not as easy as it looks. It takes lots of practice and hard work to master the skills of skates, puck and stick. But sometimes, people think things are easy until they actually try it. Sure, these guys could skate, but when they tried to shoot a puck (while moving) or take a slap-shot (while stationary) it was quite the scene. Many-a-fall for the newbies. Within 30 minutes or so, they had had enough, and humbly acknowledged that the sport was much tougher than they had imagined.

This story reminds me of some wannabe helicopter parents. The ones who coach from the sidelines. When you have been watching a sport for many years that you have never played, somehow people think that they are experts. Well, the truth is they are not. If you have never been on the pitcher’s mound with all the pressures that surround it, then you really don’t know what it is like. Further, you are NOT qualified to give advice, let alone coach your child.

If you really think you know a bit about the sport your child is participating in, maybe you should try it first before giving them advice on how to play. You will find it’s best to leave the coaching up to the coaches. That’s why they are in those roles, and why you are the parent.




When Youth Sports Transcends to Adulthood

As a parent, you may ask yourself, “what’s the big deal? So my kid has stopped playing sports. He will find other things to do with his life.” You may be right, but I would ask you to consider a few things:

Why did they start playing organized sports? Was it because you encouraged them? Was it their idea? Did they get into it because their friends were playing sports too? Regardless of the reason, I would venture to guess that they had fun. Mostly because they were playing with kids their age, their friends and some who became their friends. 

I often think about the days when I played volleyball, not as a kid, but rather as a young adult. Whether it was on the beach, indoor for league or mixed grass tournaments, they were good times.  I have fond memories of the friends I made (and still have) and the competitions, which seemed to make it all worthwhile. But to appreciate why the adult world of sports was so dear to me, you have to understand where it all began: when I spawned a love to play sports. Any sport! 

It all started with me playing sports as a kid. A pick-up game of baseball, street hockey or basketball to name a few. Organized sports taught us me the basics and finer points of the game, but the impromptu touch football game or the 500-and-your-up baseball game (anyone remember that one?) is what made it all fun. When I was in my teens, we used to frequent the junior high school during the summer where they ran a drop-in centre. We would play basketball during the day, volleyball at night. It was all unplanned, unorganized, mixed with guys and girls, and highly competitive. I so looked forward to those summer days back then.

I never wanted to stop playing sports after high school, and I did not. But why do so many of today's kids stop playing sports after high school? Don't they know what they're missing? I'm not saying all stop, but many do. Is it because they were pressed so hard by their overbearing parents to succeed at all costs in their athletic endeavours that they finally said, no more?

When your adult child no longer plays sports, they are being denied so many great experiences. Social interaction, physical conditioning, lots of fun and more!

However, those that do still play get it. In June of this year, I was at the Steveston Salmon Festival in Richmond, BC, and there was a large grass tournament taking place. There had to be 30 or more courts with teams playing reverse mixed 4's on a grass field. The event was well attended with lots of young people, playing hard and having fun. Many a married couple have come out of these types of athletic events. I met my spouse at one of those events, and it was the best thing that could ever have happened to me.

So whatever your kids interests are, whether its sports, music, camping or the arts, if you push them so hard that it is no longer fun, they will stop playing in their tracks. Maybe not when they are still under your roof, but when they leave they may never ever play again. Not the kind of parental risks anyone should be toying with, don't you think?