When I signed my first child up for gymnastics and then later for softball, I entered a whole new world. Youth sports is its own unique culture, and I had certainly had no idea what I was getting into. I figured it couldn’t be very hard to stand on the sidelines or sit in the bleachers cheering for your kid. But I soon learned that being your child’s cheerleader is not the hard part; it’s the stuff that surrounds the game that gets sticky. If you are new sports parents, or even just beginners, I want to warn you of what will most likely be ahead for you:
1. You will see bad parenting
I’m not just talking about parents who behave badly, because we all do that now and again. I’m talking about parents who are constantly pushy, obnoxious, impatient, selfish, and blind to how their bad behavior hurts their child. The best way for you to handle those type of parents is to steer clear of them and don’t let their negativity pull you down.
2. It could get expensive
Even if your child plays school ball or little league, there are still fees, equipment, and in high school, there are warm-ups, matching shoes, and team shirts. If you decide to do travel ball, it gets really expensive. And then there are the lessons, camps, and clinics that your child may want to help him improve. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each opportunity and don’t get sucked into things your child really doesn’t need.
3. Your kid will eventually have a coach he doesn’t like
Maybe your child has a coach who doesn’t know what she is doing, doesn’t know how to relate to kids, only cares about winning, doesn’t care at all about winning, or maybe she’s coaching just to see her kid be the star. Use it as an opportunity to teach your child how to get along with difficult people.
4. You will see some bad officiating
Officials are human. They may miss calls, seem biased, appear ignorant of certain rules or come across as thin-skinned. When this happens, it’s okay to moan and groan a bit, but don’t embarrass your child or yourself.
5. Your kid will not always be the star—or may not be a star at all
Parents are biased about their kids’ abilities and think they should always be on the court or field. How can the coach not see that my little Susie is the best shortstop on the team? Take off the rose-colored glasses, and realize that maybe your child is not the phenom you think he is. However, he should always be a star to you!
6. Sports parents: Your child will not always want your help
Trying to coach your kid when he doesn’t want your help will hurt your relationship. I know you are trying to help, and maybe your advice is good. But if he doesn’t want your help, he will not hear a word you say. Sometimes it’s better for your relationship with your child to let someone else do the coaching.
7. You will be stretched as a parent
Being a sports parent will test your character as much as sports will test your child’s. You’ll seethe, cry, bang your head against a wall, feel like punching a few people, and say things you regret. However, if you can remember to accept the challenge and learn from your mistakes, you too, will grow up in the process.
8. You will have fun watching your child succeed
There are few joys greater to a parent than watching your child win an award, exhibit shining character, be the star, overcome adversity, or be an inspiration to those around him. You will laugh, cry, and even go a little berserk at times. Always remember that true success is not just measured in statistics, but in the person your child becomes as they face challenges.
9. Your child could get injured
In fact, he definitely will if he plays long enough. Whether it’s a tweaked ankle, a cut, or a broken arm, it’s never easy to watch an injury happen. But your child will recover to play again. Just be sure you and he are not in so much of a hurry that you don’t leave enough time for proper healing.
10. Youth sports may get political and sports parents need to be ready
Unfortunately, politics in youth sports is prevalent and messy. There will be drama, and the best way for you to deal with it is to stay out of it! If you are new sports parents, these 10 “warnings” are not meant to scare you off; they are merely a reminder that youth sports comes with the good and the bad, and it’s up to you to show your child how to deal with both.