If you are like I was, you may be thinking, I’m just signing my kids up for some fun, how hard can that be?
But as the months and years wore on, I realized youth sports was much more complicated that it looked. Being your child’s cheerleader is the fun and easy part; it’s the stuff that surrounds the game that gets sticky.
Before the buzzer sounds to start the game, signifying that you are officially a sports parent–or even if the buzzer has already sounded and you are well into your youth sports experience–there are some facts you should know about the competitive road ahead.
- Parent problems. We all behave badly now and then. However, you will encounter parents who are consistently pushy, obnoxious, impatient, selfish, and blind to how their bad behavior hurts their child. Steer clear of those parents and don’t let their negativity pull you down.
- High costs. There are fees for equipment and signup, and in high school, there’s warm-ups, matching shoes, and team shirts. And then there’s travel ball, lessons, camps, and clinics that you feel you must have for your child to succeed. If the budget is tight, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each option, realizing that spending money won’t guarantee your child a college scholarship.
- Coach clashes. If your child plays for long enough, he will probably encounter a coach he does not like. Maybe the coach doesn’t know what she is doing or doesn’t know how to relate to kids; maybe she only cares about winning or doesn’t care at all about winning. Whatever the complaint, this is an opportunity to teach your child the life lesson of how to get along with difficult people.
- Questionable officials. You make think that some officials are blind, ultra-sensitive, ridiculously one-sided, or even ignorant about the game they are calling. They will make mistakes and questionable calls. This does not make them bad people, merely human like the rest of us. Moan and make light-hearted comments if you wish, but don’t embarrass yourself by yelling ridiculous and insulting things to them.
- Stiff competition. Your kid will not always be the star—or may not be a star at all. As a parent, you are of course very biased and often short-sighted about your child’s abilities. You think your son or daughter should always be on the court or field. You may need to take off the rose-colored glasses and realize that your child may not be the phoneme you think he is. However, he should always be a star to you!
- Parent/child conflicts. You may be tempted to coach your young athlete when he doesn’t want your help.Even if your advice is good, he may not hear a word you say because you are the parent, after all. Sometimes it’s just better for your relationship with your child to let someone else do the coaching.
- Inner parental turmoil. Being a sports parent will test your character as much as sports will test your child’s. As you watch them struggle, you may want to cry, bang your head against a wall, punch a few people, and say things you regret. Even parents can’t be perfect, so learn from your mistakes and accept the fact that you too will grow up in the process.
- Injuries. Seeing your child get injured is painful for parent and child. But unfortunately injuries are part of an athlete’s life. Don’t let the fear of injury dictate if your child plays or not. If your child wears proper protection and is taught safe techniques, you’ve done your best to prepare him for the risks.
- Sports Drama. Where there are kids and parents and coaches and egos there will be drama. Although you can’t avoid it if your child plays sports, you can stay out of it and you can refrain from being the cause of it!
- The joys of success. There are few joys greater to a parent than watching your child win an award, exhibit shining character, be the star of the game, overcome adversity, or be an inspiration to those around him. You will laugh, cry, and probably go a little berserk at times. Remember that success is not just measured in statistics, but in the person your child becomes as they face challenges.
Being a sports parent is not for the fainthearted. But it is a journey you and your child can learn and grow from together.
Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com. She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.