This week I spent at least an hour every evening at either soccer or T-ball. Thankfully, this major mashup is short-lived as some seasons wrap up and others get started. Summer goes by too fast and I don’t want to spend all of my beautiful nights on the sidelines.
But props go out to the moms and dads out there, especially those with multiple children, who spend most of their free time schlepping their kids from field to field.
I have found myself struggling to find the right balance of organized sports and activities for our family, still leaving time for backyard play or a bike ride.
I want my son to be active and have friends, and sports definitely help fill that role. I don’t want his self-worth wrapped up in how well he swings a bat or kicks a ball. Does my stomach still lurch every time he swings and misses? Yes, but I’m working on it.
I’m new to this parenting stage, since he is both oldest and only for my husband and I. There seem to be huge differences in aptitude and ability for kids at his age. They’re new to everything, so for those that sports don’t come naturally, they haven’t had the time for practice and certainly not mastery.
My son is only 6, so the stakes are pretty low. But what I’m overhearing are many parents who are already very wrapped up in their child’s athletic performance.
At a soccer practice for 4- to 6-year-olds I heard a dad yell, “You had one job,” at his son, who failed to make a save while taking his turn as the goalkeeper.
I was stunned.
At this stage, it is likely the goalie a) has their fingers entwined in the mesh of the net, b) is facing the wrong direction or c) has their T-shirt pulled up over their face.
Last year I got some stellar advice from someone who takes the responsibility of coaching seriously and thoughtfully. When I expressed some anxiety about my son’s performance at his first soccer game (who was yet to even start kindergarten at the time) she reminded me of three very valuable points to keep in mind:
– Is he having fun?
– Is he being a good teammate?
– Is he playing to the best of his ability?
This is also the best parenting advice I have received to date. I run through the three points in my head at least once a week.
I long for my own childhood when parents were far more detached from youth sports. There was no shame in dropping your kid off for practice and not staying to watch. We played for competition and fun, not to perform for an audience or pose for an Instagram shot.
That intrinsic joy is an important thing to cultivate and carry with you into adulthood.
During my recent spring hockey season, which wrapped last week, my team won two out of 12 games. I made new friends and haven’t had that much fun at the rink in a long time.
We played hard and laughed harder – except for the night I took a slap shot to the ribs during warm-up. There was no laughing from me that game.
For our performance in the consolation final, also known as the “toilet bowl” we hit the ice carrying plungers. We played our hearts out to log our final, and second, win of the season.
We played for the exercise, the camaraderie and the occasional thrill of a goal scored or a pass well executed.
For 99 percent of us, that’s all sports will ever be.