Each spring brings with it warmer and longer days, brightly colored, fragrant flowers popping through the thawed ground and the music of the birds returning home. It is a perfect season, full of promise and hope. Most people embrace it after the long, harsh winter, but if you have children who play sports, spring is full of some other things too. It promises longer practices and fluctuating game schedules, bright colored, smelly uniforms popping up all over your house (except, of course, for the one you need right now) and the shrill sounds of crazy parents screaming from the sidelines. With five kids — each one slightly overscheduled, making for a really overscheduled family – I look at this season like I looked at the third trimester of pregnancy. It is just something I have to power through. My goal is not to actually enjoy it, but rather to get to summer without losing my mind, my dignity or worse, my perspective. Here are ten tips and reminders to help you muddle through this beautiful, chaotic, trying season of kids’ sports.
- Carpools are your friend. Set up carpools early in the season and include as many kids as you can legally fit in your car – maybe even squeeze in one more. We parents, need as much help as we can get, and if you give it, you will get it.
- Toss out the guilt. You do not have to be at every game. You are not a better parent if you witness every toss, catch and kick. Your children will enjoy being able to give you their version of what happened, instead of waiting for your take on the game. By missing a few, you’ll send the message this is not overly important to you, and help to reduce the extreme pressure kids today feel. And, you will be a calmer, better parent overall.
- Prepare for games and practices the night before, so the morning doesn’t find you tearing apart the house, screaming at your child and running late. Sports are supposed to be fun, and mornings like these only add to everyone’s stress.
- Speaking of fun, repeat after me, “It is just a game. It is just a game.”
- Don’t talk about the coach, the other players or the referee in front of your children. Preferably, don’t talk about them at all, but if you have to, make sure you are in an adults-only zone. Badmouthing the coach encourages your children to undermine authority, being critical of other children teaches your children it is o.k. to be hurtful and blaming the ref teaches your children to be sore losers who don’t respect the sport.
- Do not engage or associate yourself with fans generating bad energy. There is nothing wrong with watching a game from a distance, by yourself, with music in your ears and a Starbucks in your hand. If you enjoy watching your child play, watch your child play.
- Leave the game on the field. Take your child’s lead. If he or she wants to talk about it in the car home, let them, but refrain from overemphasizing the importance of a hobby. School is the only activity in which they have to participate. It is unhealthy for your child to think the success of their pastime is extremely important to you.
- Remember this always: Your child will not play a professional sport. For the .001% of you for whom this statement is wrong, my apologies.
- Follow the 24 hour rule. It will save you from sounding like a lunatic and embarrassing your child and yourself. If you are unhappy with your child’s coach for any reason, do NOT address them after the game. Wait a full day for cooler heads to prevail, and if you still want to have the conversation, then set up a mutually agreed upon time to talk. I promise it will be calmer, more productive and more respectful on both ends.
10. Encourage your children, but stop there. Do not coach, criticize or complain from the sidelines or in your home. The game is theirs to play. You had your chance. Sports can be valuable to children, but only when their importance is kept in perspective. No one wants to be the kid of the crazy parent.