5 Things You Need to Know About Being a Sports Parent
Are you new to the world of having kids in sports? Welcome! Not only will it be so beneficial for your kiddos, but us parents can benefit from the lifestyle too! Here’s a few things you might want to know before that first practice:
1. Let’s start off simple. Label your shit.
I can’t tell you how many brownie points I’ve earned for always carrying permanent markers around in my ginormous Mary Poppins-esque bag. Hats go missing. Those nice water bottles disappear. Some awesome parent will bring a 24-pack of Gatorades, and all it takes is one mixup in the dugout for a case of strep throat to hit the entire team. But a quick scribble with a Sharpie can Prevent. It. All. Trust me.
2a. Your kid is not a superstar.
Even if they are the best freaking athlete in the entire freaking league, don’t be that parent. Let your kid be a kid. Believe me, my husband and I work our kids. We are proudly raising little athletes. They train in multiple sports year round. We would be over the damn moon if they played at the college level. But we don’t expect a coach to see every amazing thing we see in our boys, and we don’t expect our child to be immune from grunt work and playing positions they don’t want to play. A huge part of being on a team is learning to do everything on that team, learning to let other kids have a chance, learning to be humble. We are cool with our kids having “ego checks,” as we like to call them. They’re kids. They have plenty of years of work before they have to actually compete for positions and show off for professional scouts. And let’s be real....only like .005% of child athletes will ever even get to that point. So sit back, have fun, watch your seven year old score all the damn goals, and then let them breathe on the bench a while so that one teammate can pick daisies.
2b. Speaking of daisies, your kid might be the very worst on the team, and that’s okay.
Every athlete starts somewhere and most kids go through at least a short phase of not knowing WTF is going on. Last baseball season, my seven year old was playing left field. The ball came right to him. So it was really fantastic that he had his glove off, and was literally filling it was grass clippings as the ball flew right past him. He had to shake out the glove, put it on his hand, and then chase after the ball as the kids on the other team just ran across home plate one after the other. Cringeworthy. But hey, it happens. If they want to be there and be on the team and play, it will click eventually. That same kid dusting out his mitt is now crushing it with one of the best batting averages on his team one year later. And if they don’t want to be there, are hating life, and trying to get them into their uniform before each game is like trying to dress a feral cat, give them the ol’ “we made a commitment” talk, try to get them to finish out the season, and maybe choose a new sport to try! There are so many awesome options out there, and I really believe there is a sport for every kid. Every child has the potential to be an athlete: fencing, wind surfing, diving, synchronized swimming, speed walking—just get those little bodies moving while they’re young and have the natural energy and stamina to help establish those good habits.
3. Here’s your chance to make ALL the parent friends. For real. Sports parents are the best parent friends!
My mom’s best friends were all our teammates’ moms; my best friends are my kids’ teammates’ moms. They will be your kids’ biggest cheerleaders and your strongest support system. You’ll see them every weekend from here until infinity-so freaking make friends! Get pizza after the games. Go grab a post-game drink while your partners take the kids to one of your houses to play. Hang out during practices. Hell, bring a to-go cup of wine for those Friday night games! You’ll take Sally’s kids to practice on Thursday and she will make sure Bobby gets to his game on time Saturday morning. Sports parents make fab friends. Just do it.
4. Support your coaches.
Odds are they are also parents, volunteering their time, energy, and often money, to help your kid excel. They aren’t always going to do what you want, but you’re just gonna smile and deal with it. The folks signing up for these gigs are the real MVPs! It ain’t easy to get 13 six year olds to listen. Even if they are paid coaches, they are there because they have a passion for kids and the sport. Are you going to gel with every coach you encounter? No. But, oh well. Unless they are mistreating your child, suck it up, buttercup. And for the love of pete, get that coach a nice gift at the end of the season!
5. Last but not least....enjoy watching your child play!
Unless you are that amazing parent volunteer, your child has a coach, and it ain’t you! Not on the field nor court….on game day at least. Let the coach do their job and just smile and assure your child that no matter what the outcome, watching them work and enjoy their sport is why you’re there! Give them a “woohoo” or a thumbs up. But try (and yea....this is super hard for me) to reserve your mid-game advice for practice. Sit back and enjoy the show! Watch them have fun and show off their skills! It’s not their job to impress you, and your disappointment won’t propel them into future success, it will only cause potential future resistance from you. Just love your little athlete and have fun!