Spring Sports Parent Do's & Don'ts
It’s that time of year again! Holidays are over, kids are back in school, and we’re all getting ready for our kids’ spring sports seasons. My kids are tween/teens now, and I’ve seen a lot of parents’ behavior for different sports throughout the years. I’m also a former 2 sport college athlete, a multi-sport all-CIF athlete (California High School Playoffs), and the daughter of a 17 time All-American/Olympic Trials Participant/High School & College Hall of Fame athlete.
Lets just say that sports run deep in my family, but not everyone in my family has had sports success. My mom was not an athlete, she was actually a beauty pageant participant and a flight attendant. My sister did youth and high school sports, but did not participate in college. So, while you think I EAT, SLEEP, BREATHE sports at a very competitive level, it's not true. I just speak the truth.
If you ask around, you won’t find many people who participated in 2 sports in college. It was not easy when I was in school, but I figured out a way to make it work. At the same time, I NEVER, EVER made an all-star team in youth sports. Not once. I remember as a kid being so sad that my friends would be picked for all-star soccer, or all-star this, all-star that. But now as an adult, I really didn’t miss it. All of those “all-star” athletes burned out on their sport before high school, or weren’t good enough to compete at the college level. Ever since 8U sports: soccer, softball, baseball, parents’ only focus is who is going to make All Stars. Sure, I want my kids to make their all-star team, but I know that if they don’t, it's not the end of the world. However, I am human. I have to keep reminding myself as a parent: it’s not the end of the world, she’ll be OK, this has no bearing on how she’ll do in high school sports (if she decides to participate).
I’ve learned over the years that my job with young athletes is to SMILE and CLAP. That’s it. My kids are now old enough to know when they make errors, why they got benched, when they’re having a hot game, when they’re just not playing their best. I see parents yelling from the sidelines, yelling from the bleachers, standing at the dugout giving their kids instructions. Part of me wants to yell: “Hey, they have a coach!”
This might come off as though I don’t care about how my kids perform. I actually care a lot. My number one priority with your kids is to make sure THEY TRY. Their job as kids under 10 years old is to learn the skills of the sport, and guess what? Sometimes when they’re learning, they’re terrible, and that’s NORMAL. When you yell at your kids when they’re just learning the skills/rules of the sport, you’re going to ruin their entire experience. Instead of running around learning new skills and making new friends, these kids will have anxiety over every play they make, constantly looking into the crowd to see what mom and dad are doing. I’ve seen kids as young as 8-9 years old melt down playing soccer, or on the pitching mound, because the pressure from mom and dad from the stands is too much.
I feel that our jobs as parents is to support our kids.
Will they dislike a sport? Yes, but when you join a team, you learn how to finish your season.
Will they have bad games? Absolutely, but they learn coping mechanisms they can use later in life.
Will they have great games/seasons? Yes! That’s when we give them praise for what they’ve accomplished.
Will they make mistakes? YES! And kids need to in order to learn. How can we expect our kids to learn anything (sports, school, life in general) if we don’t allow them to make mistakes and learn the skills to do something different the next time?
Will they have a terrible coach? Another yes, and I’ve actually experienced this a few times with my kids. In working with a terrible coach, it teaches our kids skills for when they are adults and have to work with a difficult boss, or a boss they don’t like. As adults, we don’t always have the luxury to quit every job we get just because we don’t like the boss. So, this will help our children, so then they’re not living in our basements for the rest of their lives.
Will they they have “beef” with their competitors? Yes, healthy competition is good, it’s not bullying. There is a difference between tough competition and just bulldozing kids on the field. As adults, you can tell the difference. Just because a player from the other team elbow rubs or shoulder checks your kid in the heat of competition doesn’t mean that you need to interfere and stop the play.
Will there be other parents that annoy you? Heck yes! Guess what, you’re an adult. Suck it up and deal with it so your kid has a great experience. You don’t want your son/daughter to look back on their youth sports and think, my parents never sat with anyone else, or my dad always got into fights with other parents or coaches.
I have started to see this new trend of sports fields posting signs, or putting up sandwich boards with instructions to parents to “behave” and that this is “youth sports.” I have also seen leagues that institute a “quiet Saturday” or pass out lollipops to parents to keep their mouths shut during games. SERIOUSLY!?! Have we become so terrible as youth sports parents that we can’t even go to our kids’ game without having to be reminded to be a good human?
So, this Spring: DON’T BE THAT PARENT!
DO have fun! Clap! Cheer! Your kid will notice if they see you in the stands having a good time supporting the team, even if your kid is having a bad game.
DO support your kids
DO support your coaches
DO speak up if you see anyone acting inappropriately for the age group your kid is participating in
DO get involved! If you don’t like what you see with your sports league, get involved: coach, assist, be the team parent, join the board, volunteer, give feedback.
DON’T coach from the sidelines
DON’T yell at your kid for their game performance. Try being constructive.
DON’T yell at the ump/referee. They’re volunteering their time, they’re not professionals, and you’ll embarrass your kid.
DON’T yell at the coach! If you have an issue with your coach, go home, write up a letter or an email, but DON’T send it. Save it and wait for the next day. On the next day, read your letter. Do you really need to send it? Probably not. Delete that letter, and write another one. You’ll accomplish more if you are not writing from that initial post-game anger.
DON’T force your kids to do a sport they hate. I am a big advocate for putting your kids in everything to see what they like, or don’t like. I do feel strongly about finishing a season once you start, but once that season is over, and they really don’t like it, then it’s a good time to move on.
DO REMEMBER THIS IS A FUN TIME IN YOUR FAMILY’S LIFE! Your kids are only kids once, which I know is so cliche to say. Every parent wants their kid to be the next NFL Quarterback, or some great college/professional athlete, but the percentage of kids that go on to that level is extremely small. Know what you’re working with, and be supportive. By supportive, I don’t mean coddle them, or give them “participation” awards for everything. Be honest, let them win, let them lose, let them learn!