Full confession: I am a coach’s wife. So even though my children haven’t participated in every sport under the sun (yet), I have a heart for all the mamas out there getting ready for the busy seasons of extracurriculars headed our way. From football to basketball, volleyball to golf, you can make a big impact by being a great Team Mom. No matter what sport your talented kid decides to play, here are five pointers on how you can encourage and support them:
1. Teach them to follow through. There is nothing wrong with trying new things and figuring out they are not for you, but it is a rule in our house that we have to finish what we start. Quitting after a hard week of practice or a particularly disappointing loss isn’t going to help your child in future years when real life isn’t a cake walk. Sports are a great lesson in responsibility and commitment. Praise them for sticking to it even when it is hard. Tell them they are tough.
2. Don’t encourage complaining or blame. It can be tempting in team sports to point out the weakest link or whine about perceived inequalities. As a mom, you can offer a listening ear without enabling your kids to blame others or gripe endlessly. Find constructive ways to talk about what they can do differently next time or ways they can work to improve their own performance. All they can control is their attitude and effort. Praise them for working to be positive. Tell them they are resilient.
3. Model respect for the coach and support his/her decisions. By and large, coaches choose their job because they genuinely love teaching and helping young people grow in character as well as ability. They may choose training or discipline methods that are surprising to you. The most helpful thing you can do is ask questions and support the coach. If there is a situation where your coach is absolutely in the wrong, obviously you can stand up for your child, but the vast majority of the time, you need to be an example to your child to respect authority and follow the rules. Praise them for showing respect where it is deserved. Tell them they are mature.
4. Emphasize the importance of serving in the role they are assigned, not just the glory of scoring points. Let’s face it: there are many players that will never get to score the winning touchdown or make a three-pointer at the buzzer. But I guarantee that coaches have players that they hold in high regard for their ability to control the pace of the game or bring out the best performance in their teammates. When we think about the human body, each part needs to fulfill its purpose by functioning in the way it was designed. A kneecap can’t be a kidney. Your athlete may be an incredible role player who will make his/her coach proud by performing his/her function, no matter how small or specialized it may seem. Praise your kids for being just like Manu Ginobili. Tell them they are indispensable.
5. Remember what truly matters. Even if your children aren’t going to become professional athletes, youth sports provide opportunities to learn life lessons and keep their bodies healthy. According to a 2009 evidence-based research study conducted by The Women’s Sports Foundation, physical activities have positive health benefits for girls, including reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, breast cancer, suicidal thoughts, and teenage pregnancy. Sports give your child experience in discipline, overcoming obstacles, accepting criticism, and working with others. Help your athletes remember it is about more than just their win/loss record. Praise them for their character. Tell them they are amazing.
To paraphrase from a local school’s parent handbook, your children’s success or lack of success in sports is not a result of your parenting. But their teachability, mental toughness, respectful attitude, and willingness to work ARE results of your parenting. Help your son or daughter find a sport that he/she is passionate about and watch him/her flourish. Let your kids know you are their biggest fan and you will always be ready with some orange slices.
P.S. Bonus tearjerker commercial celebrating the moms who helped Olympic athletes become the best!