I never thought I would be a sports mom. Sports weren’t a big part of my experience growing up. But three kids later – here I am. Sitting on uncomfortable benches and watching my kids run around every weekend. It’s expensive, time consuming, exhausting, and totally worth it. They learn so much from being part of a team; life lessons about winning, losing, practice, effort, and attitude. It’s been an amazing thing for our family, and I’m glad we’re doing it.
But organized sports can get pretty weird. The hyper-competitive environment surrounding many sports creates a social norm for parents, where winning and losing seem more important than good sportsmanship, learning, and having fun. Where parents sometimes lose their minds and behave in ways that leave us shaking our heads, or dialing 9-1-1. Just last month, a dad in Springfield, MA got so angry about his son’s basketball game that he attacked a coach and bit off part of his ear. The kids on the team were between 10-12 years old.
So I did some research and identified 20 things parents can do (or not do) to place the value back on fun, fitness, learning the fundamentals and being part of a cohesive, supportive team.
Many of these tips come from an excellent article by Steve Henson, drawing from the research of Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller (of Proactive Coaching LLC). They’ve spoken with thousands of young athletes about their experiences and have made a career of speaking and writing about ways parents and coaches can do a better job keeping it fun.
I recently spoke with Bruce Brown who told me that the biggest trend in youth sports that he’s seen in his lifetime is that it’s gone from being peer-controlled to adult-controlled. “Historically, the kids were the ones picking the line-ups and calling the strikes. Now adults do that for them.” He also made the observation that since the vast majority of young athletes stop playing in middle school, “the coaches most of our kids are going to have, they’ll have before they’re 13 years old. And most of those coaches are volunteers – moms and dads. Not professionals or teachers. Their influence is so important.”
In order for us parents to keep the games fun for our kids, I’ve identified four areas to focus on and 20 things you need to know, based on my personal experience, research, and conversation with Brown:
- Setting the stage for a good season
- Things NOT to do
- Things absolutely to do
- Things you may not have thought about
Read more from Julie at her blog Rants from MommyLand. Follow Julie on Facebook and Twitter for additional goofy nonsense at no extra charge. You can catch up on her posts for Strollerderby, too – where she is often slightly less stupid.
MORE ON BABBLE:
10 tips for documenting your kid’s sports activities
Fake interviews with people I hope I never meet: The Crazy Sports Dad
14 things EVERY mom should have in the car
11 grab-and-go travel snacks your kids will love
20 ways to trick your kids into spring cleaning