With both L and now B starting baseball in April we are all PLAY BALL(!!!) over here. It seems like we’ve been waiting forever for the season to start. L has been training since December and B, well, he’s been anxious to go since day one. (His night time lullaby is ‘take me out to the ball game.’ No joke.) So, yippee – baseball season is finally here!
I thought it would be great to do a mini series on sportsmanship throughout the um, long season. It is something that I’ve been spending time thinking about and to start, let’s highlight the parents of the little athletes shall we? Rock stars for sure, I feel you toting kids here and there to various fields with equipment practically falling out of your trunk, cheering your little(s) on in rain or shine, 30 degrees or 100. I’m so there with you. Yet, occasionally we run into a more, well, aggressive personality. We’ve all seen them: overwrought, hyper-competitive parents yelling at their kids, kids’ coaches, or even teammates during youth sports. Thankfully I don’t run into this all that much in our town but we dabbled with it in other’s during football season and it was, well, a bit cringe worthy. And it’s truly hard not to get wrapped up in emotionally when you see it affecting your own child. I totally get it.
See, I can’t imagine losing it on the sidelines of the baseball diamond or the football field. I would rather crawl into a hole. And so I wonder, why do what I’m assuming are perfectly nice, normal parents freak out over their kids’ games? What possesses them to hover and turn into, as B might say…..’bossy pants?’
I wonder if it might be too much of a good thing. If you think about it, we have access to a ton of information about everything under the sun courtesy of the Internet. Back when we were kids our parents didn’t have access to the information overload that we do. If dad spends some time Googling football tactics, he might start to think that he could substitute coach. (And he could, but do B & L really want him to?)If I dig a bit deeper, I truly think the root cause of this obsession to control at sporting events really boils down to anxiety. It’s easy to get caught up in feelings of anxiety or stress over our kids’ happiness, safety, and ability to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of life. This is a natural, but mostly unfounded, fear. And in some parents, these concerns manifest into an overpowering feeling of panic that activates the “crazy copter” within.
So, how can we as parents avoid these pitfalls and redirect our energy to ensure that we are instilling confidence in the boys, their coaches and teammates?
First, it is important to leave the coaching to the coach. Sounds obvious, right? But it can be easy to forget in the heat of the moment. While one may disagree with coaches at times, there is a reason they are in charge and they know what they’re doing. We need to trust them! They are devoting countless hours of volunteering while also raising a family and oh, yes, of course….holding down a job. I know that if I let the coaches do their job, not only does it benefit the boys, it also allows me to focus on enjoying the game, which is why I am there. I am, most definitely, not in charge. That would be frightening for all.
Keeping the aforementioned tip in mind, it is important to not call out a coach about a decision made or a play called. Ever. I try to remember that part of the coach’s job entails keeping the best interests of the team in mind, not my one child. Believe me, I get it: It’s perfectly natural, as a parent, to feel opposed to a decision that doesn’t appear to immediately benefit your kid. However, for the sake of the whole team, there is a bigger plan the coach sees that we may not.
You know how both teams line up at the end and tell each other, “good game” while high fiving each other? This is the attitude we all need to adopt when attending a game. Leading by example is always the most powerful method for teaching children good sportsmanship. If they can put on a smile and enjoy the game, we can, too!
Another very important point is this: my boys athletic performance doesn’t define who I am. Bless it, I can barely hit a ball. These two could not have been born to a mother that is easier to impress in terms of the athletic world. I am honestly whole heartedly amazed at what they can do daily. So not only does their performance not define me, I want them to know that it doesn’t define who they are, either. I want to reinforce the overall value they bring to the team; doing so instills confidence, strengthens the commitment to their team members and motivates them to work harder for the overall good. What a great way to teach them team work, right?
Speaking of performance, I want to cheer them on through mistakes as well as victories. And reassure them that no one is perfect, and that this is ok! I also teach them that mistakes offer ample opportunities to learn. I try and share this with L & B all the time. And I demonstrate through my own behavior that I mean it. Even if B misses that baseball sitting perfectly on the batting tee, I’m putting it right back up there for him to try again.
I know that self-esteem can be gained from playing a sport. This is one reason, in addition to the Herculean levels of energy I’ve discovered my boys possess and need to run off, why I got L and B involved in sports at a young age. When kids have respect for themselves as people as well as respect for their athletic abilities, they’ll be that much better equipped to play with confidence. Also, self-respect inevitably leads to respect of others, which will translate to their coach and teammates – and lead to a more cohesive, stronger team dynamic. A win-win situation all around.
So, there you go. I’m going to keep my feet (and emotions!) firmly planted on the ground during L and B’s sporting events with these tips in mind, cheering for every kid that is up to batt. Oh, and rest assured, I’ll have packed some great snacks. Because, as always, isn’t it really just all about the food? 😉