Common sense is not so common.” –Voltaire, 1764
Young parents are extraordinarily busy. Moms find themselves with more than one full-time occupation, outside and inside the home. Dads are called upon to make extra trips to school or to complete “honey-do” lists. Add in a couple of sports or six (two for each child), and the task is clearly impossible. In fact, one young mom who follows my blog asked me to condense my short blurb to a couple of Key Tips (which you will find at the bottom of each article) so that she can get the gist of it without taking time to read all 600 words.
In the spirit of getting to the point, here are seven simple suggestions that can make sports less of a chore and more of a shared joy.
- SCHEDULE: Be intentional about your family calendar. Keep priorities including family time, academics, social time for young people, and insert breaks in the action for kids to just “be.” There is a lot of value in doing nothing sometimes. Multiple sports in a season, specialization with many practices and travel, and just trying to “do it all” can create stress on the family structure. It’s an energy drain, causing the quality of all activities to be diminished. It’s okay, in fact it’s heroic, to say “no” sometimes.
- SWITCH: If you observe that your young athlete is working full tilt to keep up in a sport, and is no longer excited about playing, for whatever reason, consider making a change. It is preferable to seek a better fit after the current season. I know the long respected adage “you have to finish what you start,” but there are exceptions. Regrettably, quitting mid-season can be disruptive to coach and team; if your child’s well being is in question, you must carefully consider that option. After all, his mental, physical, and emotional health is your first charge.
- SUPPORT: First and foremost, provide what your athlete needs. Your relationship you will outlast sports, and it is important to communicate about what your daughter needs from you. If it’s only attendance at her game, then go. If it’s helping work through a conflict, help her process appropriate timing and effective words. Support the coach. A coach can quickly surmise who is undermining his efforts. Never criticize him in front of your child. Rather seek to understand and be courageous enough to share concerns respectfully. Support the team as a whole. It enhances the experience when it is shared with all the players and parents.
- SELF CONTROL: This was a challenge for me. Wanting to advantage my child, and being hyper-focused because of my love of sports, were a continual challenge. One of my favorite sports parents was incredibly supportive of my program and of me personally. His enthusiasm and creativity made a positive impact. Once his son reached high school, the intensity ramped up. I remember sitting at a big game, a few rows behind him, and observing behavior I was all too familiar with. He was tied up in knots, as I had been. In fact, his wife got up and moved to another seat.
- STRENGTHEN: The true value in sports what remains after the sports experience. When your child suffers setbacks, if possible, allow him to work through it with the support of your mature perspective. This is where perseverance is developed, a skill every human being needs to succeed in the world.
- SERIOUSNESS: Competitive sports require focus and discipline. Playing recreationally is about having fun. Gauge your level of seriousness appropriately. Regardless, it is still just a game, life goes on win or lose, and only 2% of young athletes play beyond high school.
- SAVOR: We met friends for dinner at a new chophouse this week. It was truly the best steak I had ever eaten. Each morsel was as good as the one before, no diminishing returns. Savoring something requires being patient, being in the moment, appreciating all the attributes of the experience. As you watch your daughter play, savor it all. Even the learning curve, because no performance is perfect. And remember on the ride home to say these magic words: “I loved watching you play.”
- Employ a balanced approach to your children’s sports activities to increase enjoyment and effectiveness.
- Honor relationships throughout their sports journey, especially between you and your child.