I love sports. Soccer, basketball, track. I love it all. I just have one major hangup: try-outs. As the mom of four athletes, I’ve experienced the highs and lows associated with them. I’ve sat on both sides of varsity success and JV hell from middle school through college. Here are a few things I’ve learned in my parenting journey as a sports mom.
Your child does not need to hear your very insightful tips on making the team. She’s practiced, she’s put in the time, now let her do her thing. Remember, your child feeds off your anxiety so tamp it down—waaaay down.
Show your support.
What does that look like? First, validate what your child is feeling. If he didn’t make the team he wanted to, acknowledge the disappointment. It doesn’t feel good, so say so. Now focus on what he can control: attitude, effort and developing skills.
If she makes the dream team, party it up (for a minute). Your child now has to earn her playing time so keep expectations in check. It’s a rare freshman, for example, who carries a team on her ridiculously talented shoulders and is selected to First Team All Universe on her first outing. Just saying.
Don’t trash talk.
Nothing puts toxic waste in your kiddo’s veins faster than your angry words about the coach, the other players, blah blah blah. Your child needs healthy coping mechanisms and any negativity on your part will kill that opportunity. Don’t be the snark shark.
Nothing amps your anxiety worse than sitting around, waiting for news, wringing your hands. To manage my own discomfort, I paint. Everyone knows when try-outs roll around because I have a new color in the entry way, the kitchen, the bathroom. And for the love of all that is holy, do NOT go to try-outs and coach your kid from the sideline. I’ve seen that. It’s not pretty.
Cheer them on!
The best advice I ever got was to say only positive things during the game. Go, Tigers! Nice shot, #3. Cheer your kid and every kid on the team. Never talk poorly about someone else’s child. I remember one dad who would outwardly groan when my child was subbed in. Ouch.
Kids all develop at their own pace. Some superstar fourth graders go on to greatness in high school but some flame out early. The kids who rise to the top may surprise you. Late bloomers may not boast genetic giftedness, but I guarantee, they understand hard work, selflessness and dedication. Qualities that work in life beyond sports, yes?
Always do this after every game.
One final thought: after the game, please don’t pick it a part. Don’t dwell on the ref, the substitutions, the playing time. Simply say, “I love watching you”—even if he was only on the court for 10 minutes. Pick one thing he did well and point it out. “Hey, didn’t you PR?” despite his last place finish. Or, “I loved how you defended against that really fast, really strong forward. Wow! She was a handful.”
Then, turn the radio to her favorite station and shut up. You might be surprised what gems your well supported athlete will share.