5 Dilemmas That Keep Sports Parents Up at Night
Parents worry. That’s just what they do. Kids give them plenty of fuel for that, and in the youth sports world, it is no different.
I hate to admit this, but there were nights when I would lie awake, worrying about something my child was facing in sports. I would think through every possible solution, in an effort to fix things for my child, or at least help them fix it.
What was it that kept me up at night? I’m guessing my worry list looks a lot like some of yours. I’d like to share it with you and offer some solutions that might help sports parents get much-needed sleep. Are any of these causing you to toss and turn?
My child isn’t getting enough playing time!
This is a big one. Because not only does this have to do with playing time; it often affects your child’s self-esteem, happiness, and motivation.
You want your child to be happy. You want your child to have success. You want your child to work hard and feel the reward of that hard work. And often, parents assume that the only way for their child to be happy, have success and feel rewarded is by having the playing time they want.
Playing time is important; let’s not pretend that it isn’t. Every athlete wants to play. But the number one mistake that parents make about playing time is assuming that it is the only measurement of success for their young athletes.
Success has so many other symptoms: character growth, leadership, reaching a goal, having a comeback, and consistent improvement, to name a few.
Playing time should not be the holy grail of youth sports. There is so, so much more for your child in the youth sports experience than just minutes off the bench.
This whole process of playing sports–unless your child goes on to the pros–is meaningless if your child gets nothing out of it but a lot of playing time.
With that perspective, parents can set aside worries about playing time and focus instead on helping their child reach for their goals.
My child is just not motivated.
Maybe you’ve tried yelling, bribery, comparison, reverse psychology, threats and preaching to motivate your child. Did any of them work for you? I’m guessing none of them produced long-lasting results.
What it takes to motivate your child is as individual as your child. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for motivating kids.
No matter what type of personality your child has and no matter why type of parent you are, these are the fundamental tactics that will lay the groundwork of motivation in your child.
Believe in Your Child
To show that you believe in your child, always look for the best. Express your belief without conditions: You can do this! I love you and am proud of you! And don’t keep reminding your kids of their failures.
Be your child’s staunchest supporter when they look good, and when they don’t. When they persist, and when they quit. When they frustrate you to no end, and when they bring tears of joy to your eyes.
Keep sports in perspective
Be sure your child has a life outside of sports and has time to just be a kid. Encourage other interests. Keep sports fun and positive.
Affirm their hard work
As you see positive results, remind your child that their hard work has paid off. This is where your child learns the very valuable lesson of discipline and persistence. It’s amazing how even small improvements can fuel motivation.
Gentle prodding, not pushing
Gentle prodding can be done in these ways:
- Offer opportunities for improvement. Offer to rebound when he shoots baskets in the driveway, take him to the weight room to work out, or sign her up for a volleyball camp or speed training class.
- Encourage your child to not settle for the status quo. It’s easy for kids to resign themselves to situations because “that’s just the way it is.” But when an athlete chooses to keep fighting, amazing things can happen.
My child is not getting along with the coach.
“Getting along” can look like a lot of things when it comes to athletes and coaches. Does your child think the coach doesn’t like them, notice them, or trust them? Maybe your child thinks the coach is harder on them than anyone else.
Whatever the scenario, the bottom line is that this is an opportunity for your child to learn about people and how to get along with them. Not every coach, teacher, or employer is going to be besties with your child and learning to “get along” with people is something your child can start learning now with a coach who seems a bit prickly.
Your child will probably need your guidance in this. Coach them through it. Ask questions like: What is it that makes your coach hard to get along with? What would you like your relationship with your coach to look like?
Don’t let your child get away with the flimsy excuse that they just don’t get along with their coach. There’s always a reason, and always more to the story. Kids often struggle to see this and with your guidance, they can learn how seeking to understand will, in the end, help them to be understood.
My child does not like his/her teammates.
Hopefully there are at least one or two teammates that your child connects with, but if not, it will indeed be a long season. Teamwork is one of the joys of playing sports, so when your child does not like the team, much of the fun will be lost.
Perhaps this is an opportunity for your child to learn how to be a friend. You’ve probably heard the saying, In order to have friends, you have to be a friend. Being a friend means encouraging, listening, showing interest, defending, and cheering for the other person.
When my husband coached high school softball, there were two players–the pitcher and the catcher–who did not get along well. My husband told them, “you don’t have to be best friends outside of softball, but on this team, you must treat each other with respect and have each other’s back.”
It’s always more enjoyable if your child has good friends on the team, and as parents and coaches, there are ways you can encourage that. But if that is not happening for your child, then talk to them about what it looks like for them to work on being a friend, on being a good teammate. If nothing else, your child will learn how to be more aware of other’s and less focused on themselves.
My child wants to play in college.
My kids all expressed a desire to play in college, and I so I would wonder, “what-if?” What if no one wants them? What if they don’t get a scholarship? What if they don’t get the college they want? I was afraid that my kids would be devastated if they could not continue to play and so I did what most moms do, I worried.
In the first year of high school, we asked each of our kids what their long-term goal was for their chosen sport. They all said “college.” So the next comment was, “If you are willing to work hard and do all that you can, we will do all that we can to help.”
That usually meant extra lessons, camps or training. It meant playing on travel teams to get experience. And since our kids weren’t heading for D1 level sports, it also meant that we had to do a lot more work to find a place where they could play. That’s a whole different subject, and here’s a few ideas on it that a recruiter friend of mine wrote.
You may do everything right, but there is no still guarantee that your child will play in college. So the question remains, what then?
By the time this question comes up, your athlete will be at least a junior or senior in high school, old enough to face the realities and start asking themselves some hard questions. What will I do if I can’t get on a college team? How can I still play sports, even if it’s not on a college team?
As hard as it is to accept, your child will be okay, especially if you are okay. Your support–with or without college sports–will give them the encouragement to face whatever college brings. They need to know they are not a disappointment to you if they don’t play. They need to know you are proud of them regardless.
Worry is Wasted
Next time you are tempted to worry, try asking yourself a few questions to move away from it: What does my child need to learn from this experience? What can I do to help them grow stronger from this?
It’s taken me years to really let this truth sink in: worry is a huge waste of time and energy. Lately, I’ve been going through a difficult time and I’ve literally let worry and stress affect me physically. Who knows, maybe it’s years of pent-up sports mom worry finally manifesting itself in my body! At any rate, letting go of worry is not easy and takes intentionality. If you are ready to move on from it and would like a free 30-minute coaching call to start the process.
Parents, I hope you’re sleeping well and enjoying the journey. If you are, I’m pretty sure your kids will be enjoying it more too.