Somebody should have warned me.
When I signed my first child up for gymnastics and then later for softball, I entered a whole new world. Kids’ sports is its own unique culture. I had no idea what I was getting into.
How hard can it be to stand on the sidelines and cheer for your kid? You may ask. Being your child’s cheerleader is not the hard part; it’s the stuff that surrounds the game that gets sticky.
Before the whistle blows to begin your child’s first sports endeavor, I will warn you of what you will encounter as your young athlete grows up and offer my best advice.
(1) You will see bad parenting. I’m not just talking about parents who behave badly, because we all do that now and again; I’m talking about parents who are consistently pushy, obnoxious, impatient, selfish, and blind to how their bad behavior hurts their child.
My Best advice: steer clear of those parents and don’t let their negativity pull you down.
(2) If you’re in it for the long haul, be prepared to spend money. Even if your child just plays school ball or little league, there are still fees, equipment, and in high school, there’s warm-ups, matching shoes, and team shirts. If you decide to do travel ball, it gets really expensive. And then there’s the lure of lessons, camps, and clinics that you simply must have for your child to succeed and make it to college—so they say.
My Best advice: Weigh the pros and cons of expense and if you decide to do it for your child, accept it without complaining. It won’t guarantee your child a college scholarship, but it will offer plenty of fun and opportunities for character growth.
(3) Sooner or later, your kid will have a coach he can’t stand. Either the coach doesn’t know what she is doing, she doesn’t know how to relate to kids, she’s coaching just to see her kid be the star, she only cares about winning, she doesn’t care at all about winning or, well, you name it.
My Best advice: Use it as an opportunity to teach your child how to get along with difficult people, a lesson we all need to learn.
(4) You will have some really bad refs. They can be blind (seriously, we know two refs who can only see out of one eye!), ultra-sensitive, ridiculously one-sided, or just plain ignorant about the game they are coaching.
My Best advice: Moan and groan a bit, but don’t embarrass yourself like I did until I realized how stupid I looked!
(5) Your kid will not always be the star—or may not be a star at all. Let’s face it, we are biased about our kids’ abilities. We think they should always be on the court or field. How can the coach not see that my little Susie is the best shortstop on the team?
My Best advice: Take off the rose-colored glasses and realize that maybe your child is not the phoneme you think he is. However, he should always be a star to you!
(6) Trying to coach your kid when he doesn’t want your help will hurt your relationship. I know you are only trying to help, and your advice is really good. If they would only listen and do what you say, they could be so much better! But if they don’t want your help, they will not hear a word you say.
My Best Advice: Sometimes it’s just better for your relationship with your child to let someone else do the coaching.
(7) You will be stretched as a parent. Being a sports parent will test your character as much as sports will test your child’s. You’ll see the, cry, bang your head against a wall, feel like punching a few people, and say things you regret.
My Best Advice: Accept the challenge and learn from your mistakes. You too, will grow up in the process.
(8) You will have fun watching your child succeed. 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, you will cry, you will go a little berserk at times.
My best advice: 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 fun, frustrating, and not for the fainthearted. And you know, I would do it all over again!