In the last post we looked at several considerations that parents have to make when getting their kids enrolled in sports. There is a lot more to this parenting thing then just signing them up. Often some of the things that parents go through are not too difficult if someone would only have given them a “heads up”. Well…. Heads up.
Here is the second part of the series. Last time we presented 2 categories, one on perspective and one on sacrifice. Here are the final two.
In the category of “Sometimes Sports Aren’t Pretty”
- Be careful that your child doesn’t ONLY identify themselves as an athlete. Yes, they may be a gymnast, or a swimmer, or dancer, but they are also more than that. As a parent you are charged with the task of giving them opportunities to also be that something else. Be a sister, be a scientist, be a mountain climber, be a whatever. Be sure that they see themselves as more than the sport. As I mentioned, the day will come when the leave the sport; what will they feel they can be then?
- Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn. There will be times when your son
or daughter will win honors, but there will be more times when they don’t. I have had athletes train all year for a chance to qualify to a championship meet only to have one bad routine and miss their chance. It’s soul crushing. There will be more consolations then congratulations; but, I look at it as a learning process. If we learn about what to do, or what not to do, then we didn’t really lose did we?. As a coach it’s often difficult to console an athlete after a disappointing performance, but we understand that it’s 10x harder for the mom and dad. You have everything from taking them home, seeing them the next morning, and bringing them back to the gym and all the minutes in-between. We understand, and we will help support you and the athlete, but make no bones about it, we don’t envy your position.
- Sports help kids develop in so many ways. They learn more life lessons through 5 years in sports than the average kid may learn in 20 years of living. But though they are advanced for their age, they are still young. Kids are still kids and they have problems processing emotions or grasping complex concepts. On occasion I have had to remind coaches that they might see highly trained gymnasts, but all that talent and skill is housed inside a young child. As a parent, you know that they might be advanced, but they are still your child. They will need opportunity to express themselves like children do. It may take time, or when puberty hits, it may take patience on your part, but give them the space to be kids. That is what they need for healthy development.
The last category is called “Parent’s Wake Up Call”
- Your job description may include counselor, driver, and cook; but it also includes manager. Kids in sport are usually pressed for time. Because of the demands of their training they learn how to manage their time to fit school work and sleep into their schedule. There will be times when you will have to oversee their schedule. Watch that they do get enough sleep, enough kid time, and enough time to just hang out with the Fam. On meet weekends you will need to budget travel time to be able to travel, eat, and still be there for warm ups. You may need to have them study in the car, or eat dinner on the way to the gym until they start to develop their skills of time management.
- Your job description will also include the title of Angel Investor. Being a sport parent requires not only the investment of your time, but it requires a financial commitment as well. It may require being creative to find ways to cover expenses, for example, we have scholarship opportunities for work-study programs at Gymfinity. I have had parents sign up for cleaning duties after practice not because they need the financial break, though some do, but because they want to show their athlete that there is a value to their training. I have a lot of respect for that decision. It’s humbling. It may also be hard to have to make tough decisions on when to spend money and when to not spend. It may feel like you are being too tough, but every family has different circumstances. Again, for us, family is a priority. We don’t want to put parents in a position to have to short change one child to pay for another.
In any case, we know that parenting an athlete can be different than you may have thought it would be. Yes, there are some great times, some memories are never forgotten. There may be times when it is stressful to see the sacrifices of time, money, or social events. Worse yet, sometime all the sacrifice doesn’t pay off, maybe she falls off the beam, or falls on her vault. It could happen, but remember that sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.