No one warns you when you sign up your child for his first season of sports that it’s not going to be all fun and games.
Oh, it probably starts out that way. But something happens as kids get older and the competition gets stiffer; the light hearted fun gets forgotten as many parents get discouraged with the messiness of youth sports.
I’d like to suggest the three top reasons I believe sports parents get discouraged and what they can do to fight those feelings.
Reason #1 Unmet Expectations
When the youth sports journey doesn’t progress as we imagined it would, it’s easy to want to give up.
Perhaps you hoped your child would progress quicker in his skills, make the starting squad, or follow in your footsteps and become an all-star.
Or maybe your expectations were of an idyllic youth sports experience where team parents all became good friends and your kids loved their coach.
Whatever the expectation, it’s not been met and you find yourself wondering over and over, why am I doing this?
Antidote for Unmet Expectations: It’s better to go into the youth sports experience with out any pre-conceived expectations; be prepared that this is not going to be Disney World and there will be many challenges. Focus on what’s really important: your child’s character, a positive experience for his team, and how you can be a positive voice in the negativity. If your child loves the sport enough, you will work through problems.
Reason #2 Drama
Youth sports drama is without a doubt one of the most distasteful parts of the journey.
It’s a messy mix of parents, kids, coaches, playing time, positions, coaching strategies, and the perception of youth sports "politics."
It’s kids getting frustrated and hurt, parents getting mad and controlling, coaches getting defensive and fed-up. And sometimes it’s enough to drive parents and athletes to call it quits.
Antidote for Drama:
Often, the best way for a parent and player to deal with the drama is to ignore it. But what if there’s a situation that won’t go away? Should you as a parent confront the coach about it?
That depends on how well you know the coach and how supportive you’ve been. My husband and I have never been the type of parents to tell a coach how to manage his team. So if I didn’t know the coach well, I would not say anything.
Focus on the game, on your child’s character and skill growth, and don’t let the drama drive you or your child from the game he or she loves. You may not like it, your child may not like it, and yes, it may be very annoying, but other than that, it might be an issue you will just have to live with until the season ends.
Reason #3 Your Child Needs Constant Pushing
If your child has reached a point in youth sports where he or she needs constant pushing, then it may be time to re-evaluate the situation.
When my youngest was little, she begged me to let her take piano lessons. So I signed her up, took her to lessons, and after the novelty wore off for her, found myself constantly pushing her to practice. After a few weeks, I thought, why am I paying for her to do this when she doesn’t really want it? It was like I was buying misery for myself because I has to continually hound her to practice. So I let her made the decision to quit and we moved on to the next adventure, which turned out to be sports. That one stuck!
Here’s my point: There are enough areas where we must push our kids--academics, eating, brushing their teeth--so why add more misery and conflict by pushing our kids in youth sports. I’m not talking about gentle encouraging pushes, I’m referring to constant harping to practice, practice, practice; hit harder, run faster, and be more aggressive.
Antidote for Pushing:
Try backing off. Let your child take the lead. Let him ask for extra help if he needs to work on a certain skill. Let her ask you to take her to the batting cages. Let him ask to go to a summer soccer camp or a football clinic. As a sports parent, your job is facilitate, not dominate your child’s sports experience.
Perhaps you are one of those parents who feels beat-down and wonders if youth sports is really worth the trouble. If your child loves the game and wants to play, don’t let it stop him or her from having a fun, growing youth sports experience. Youth sports really is worth the trouble!