This is a huge departure from the typical types of articles that you see on the site.
Sometimes real life trumps everything else, and this is one of those times.
My son is a runner, when I say runner I don’t mean recreationally, but the times that he runs for his age puts him in the ‘elite runner’ category.
Problem is, it is incredibly easy to get caught up in the excitement of having a kid who is one of the best.
Which is where the ‘crazy side’ of sports parents can come in. I haven been incredibly guilty of being less than a ‘calm parent’ when it comes to watching my child compete or even practice.
My eyes have been opened lately to the dark side of adding pressure to children who are competing in youth sports.
Running sports have been my son’s focus from a very young 8 years old. So when at the beginning of the Spring sport season, my son told my husband and I that he wanted to try a different sport (lacrosse) that became the wake up call that we needed.
It is very apparent that our son is very talented and frankly, is more driven towards achieving his goals that most adults that we know. The last thing that we want to have happen is him to decide that he no longer wanted to have running as a part of his life because he got burnt out early into his career.
So why were we adding to his self imposed pressure by doing anything other than telling him how proud we are of him?
That’s the million dollar question, now isn’t it?
Sometimes, the things that we like the least about ourselves is what we dislike the most in those closest to us. So, between seeing some less than desirable behavior in others, coupled with the shock of hearing our son tell us that he was ready to give up what he had been working so hard to accomplish for many years, was the wake up call that we needed.
All of that being said, my husband and I knew that this year had to be different in terms of the type of sports parents that we were going to be.
Here’s what we’ve been doing differently this season (so far).
Just because practice is offered five days a week doesn’t mean he goes all five days.
Hear me out here. This one can be tricky because as parents we want our kids to be invested in which ever team they belong to and we don’t want them to ever let their teammates down.
BUT, that being said there are days built into my son’s club team’s practice schedule that are meant to be lighter days that aren’t skill focused. That is also the difference between a true team sport like football, basketball in which your child’s participation makes a difference in the dynamic of the practice structure. Running is incredibly individualized and on the days that are meant to be recovery sort of days, we decided to do recovery on our own. Often my entire family is at my oldest son’s practices because I meet my husband and kids at the practice after work for a wide variety of reasons.
For my own sanity, the practices that are offered on Saturdays, will soon morph into meets that last all day. Because sports family burnout is also very real, the agreement is that my son won’t attend those practices if I am the only parent home. In other words, if my husband is at work, then we will sit out on Saturday mornings.
We let the coach do the coaching.
Often, our ride home would sound a lot like a critique of the practice, which is plain silly because practice is meant to help the athlete improve.
Also, if the coach had an issue with my son’s performance, there is no doubt that something would be said to him in that moment. There is no need to prolong the teaching and it is more impactful for his coach to coach.
Don’t say anything other than: “I love watching you”
Your kid needs to know that you are his or her biggest cheerleader. Period.
So, choke back the urge to criticize or give other coaching tips. Just say I love watching you run, or play. Fill in the blank where it is appropriate.
That inspiration came from this Ted Talk. The Ted Talk is a large part of my mind shift. Seriously. Take the time to watch it.
Just in case you were wondering, our son didn’t pursue the lacrosse route for a wide variety of reasons. But the biggest was that we had already committed to the club team and we are big on honoring our commitments.