Many is the morning when a parent wakes up and has to drive their athlete/child to a meet out of town. They think to themselves “Why did I let her do gymnastics?” Then they get up, get dressed and chauffeur the gymnast to the meet. Ah…. parenting is hard work.
So why do they do it? Some get their kids into sports to learn skills, to exceed how good they, the parent, was at a sport, or to just have a constructive fitness activity. Some are looking for social development or the affective development of winning humbly and losing graciously. Whatever the reason, sports gives us way more for our kids than we anticipate. Read any of my other posts to see how much I believe in the benefit of sport.
But there is another side of the coin. There are considerations that we may not have thought of when our kids got involved in gymnastics, or other sports. Here are a few considerations that we must have as sports parents. As a parent and a coach for over 30 years, I have included a few bits of advice for free. You’re welcome.
In the category of “Keep Your Perspective Mom”:
- To you they are the best in the world, but that might not be the case. We must be satisfied with knowing that the sport may not offer our children international fame or a college scholarship. It’s ok to know that the sport or activity just makes them happy. If they are having fun and learning (physically, mentally, and emotionally) then we have a champion in the family regardless of results.
- It may be the same sport you or Dad did when you were young, but this is a totally different person, with a completely different set of circumstances: they have different parents, different timing, different peers, different coaches, and are in a different era than you. Give them the space to be themselves, let them participate at their own level of comfort. You will see that they will exceed their own expectations. If they don’t exceed yours, then that’s your problem. Deal with it, but don’t throw it on them.
- You will have to plan for their retirement. Every athlete has a day when they don’t play anymore. If you think ahead and plan for things to do when they retire, then you won’t be stressed out when it happens. Sometimes kids quit by choice, maybe they feel it’s too hard or they’re over their head. Maybe it’s not fun anymore. Maybe, they are retiring because of an injury. Whatever the case we must support them if they make the choice. I always tell my team kids that I will support their decision if it’s well thought out and if it’s not just because they are frustrated. Frustrations can be overcome, so it’s not a good reason. I tell them, and it’s true, that, as a coach, I will be sad and disappointed but not angry. Many young athletes fear making the coach mad. Be sure, as a parent, that they don’t have that same fear with you.
New category: The sacrifices.
- Being an athlete is demanding and the team is a hungry monster that is never satisfied. The sport will require a specific schedule. It will demand some early mornings and some late nights. It may ask that your child leave school early to travel to a meet, or it may ask that you leave work early to drive them. In any case be prepared to make some sacrifices for the team and the sport. It will be worth it every time you see her smile up at you from the competition floor.
- When your child gets to a level of performance where outside factors can affect performance you will find that you will have to develop new habits to support the athlete. Less fast food, more salad (this was tough for me). You will no longer be able to be a “walk-it-off” parent. Because now a twisted ankle may keep them from the game, so you tend to have it looked at instead of letting them shake it off. My favorite story in this category is about one parent that slept on the uncomfortable hotel room sleeper couch so her daughter could get a good night sleep on the bed. See what I mean? Sacrifice.
- It may be hard to keep your perspective on the 2 things that always matter more than sports: family and school. At our gym we do not require kids to home school or tutor (many gyms do) because our mission is to develop a well-rounded child, that means social development in school. But often school must work around the sport. As I mentioned sometimes they may have to leave school early, or have homework delivered in a bunch because they will miss a few days of school while travelling to a meet or game. Family for us, is always a priority. I have kids miss training for birthdays, grandparent’s visits, or other family events. I am not as understanding about missing a meet for those reasons, but I can be flexible. Remember what I said above, sports are selfish, they will ask for your sacrifices, but you don’t always have to give in. Prioritize.
Next time we will explore that last two categories: “Sometimes Sports Aren’t Pretty” and “Parents Wake Up Call”.