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Surviving kids' sports so everyone wins

It’s always entertaining when people ask me if my kids are involved with sports. I start to rattle off the list, and their jaw drops slightly. The kids have always been active, and luckily, it easily fits into our lifestyle. This translates to mom being available 24/7 to chauffeur, flying to highly sought-after destinations (like run-down rinks in the middle of nowhere), and being a master scheduler that can be in three different locations simultaneously.

Thank goodness for the carpool gods and our street having oodles of active kids. Shout out, and big thanks to those moms. However, learning how to become a supportive sports parent was more challenging than getting everyone to where they needed to be.

I got lots of practice with my firstborn, a highly competitive figure skater. Unfortunately, her perfectionist personality often clashed with my go out, have fun, and do your best parenting style. This caused many tears for both of us and motivated me to seek a sports psychologist to help. With professional help and trial and error, I was able to be that pillar she needed to go out and compete against Olympic medalists. Now I can look back and be grateful for these struggles as I am a much more relaxed sports parent for my two younger boys.

My top six tips for surviving kids’ sports, no matter what level.

  1. Stay consistent in your reactions. You love your child no matter how they perform. If you react the same, if they do well or not, it shows them that.

  2. Validate tough losses, don’t brush them off. If I say it’s ok when it isn’t to them, I feel like I am saying the way they feel is not ok. So instead, I will say something like, I can tell from how you are acting that was not the outcome you wanted. It’s ok to feel sad and disappointed; those are normal emotions.

  3. Just be there with what they need. Keep yourself busy by ensuring they have snacks, water, Bobbie pins, or whatever their sport calls for. If they have everything, they need, you will both be less stressed.

  4. They don’t have to be the best. Remember, kids all develop at different rates. It’s okay if your child isn’t the best on the team. However, it is essential that they love the sport and want to keep practicing and improving.

  5. Be a collaborative parent. This means don’t undermine the coach. If you talk badly about a coach in front of your child, they can lose faith in the coach and think they don’t have to listen to them. It’s better to address any coaching issues directly with the coach and work together for a solution.

  6. Make friends with other parents in the sport. I’m not sure I would survive the ups and downs of competitive skating without our rink family. Rides, emotional support, or advice, you are not alone. You have an entire team.

One of my proudest sports mom moments was when I attended a tennis match, and the coach called me over to show me what court my son was on. The coach said my son was so excited every time I came to watch, and he couldn’t say that about most parents and athletes. Our kiddos know it takes much practice to be good at something. That’s also true about being a good sports parent.


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