Dear Sports parent, let me start by saying this: I am not writing this post for any advertisers. I’m not using any affiliate links. This information is purely based on 21 years of sports parenting, on what I did have, and what I wished I had.
Let me save you the agony of trying to figure out exactly what you will need by telling you about 10 things that every sports parent must have to make the youth sports experience more enjoyable and to help you keep your sanity.
Must Have #1: A comfy bleacher chair.
This is to prevent bleacher butt and back spasms. I know it’s a pain to lug to the bleachers, but you will be glad you did. If you see yourself being a sports parent for many years, don’t go cheap; get one that feels really comfortable and lasts a long time.
Must Have #2: Extras in the Car.
An extra pair of sox, extra water bottles, extra hair ties, extra ankle tape, even an extra pair of athletic shoes. Buy a cheap pair from Walmart for those days when your child forgets/loses/rips his or her shoes before a game.
Must Have #3: Extra Water.
Yes, I know I already said that, but I think it needs to be stressed. I know that it’s your child’s responsibility to bring his own water bottle, but what if she forgets? Are you going to punish her by letting her get dehydrated? When you get that hand signal during a time-out that your child needs water, have one already on hand, so you don’t have to make a run to the snack bar.
Must Have #4: A comfy lawn chair.
Just in case you prefer to sit away from the other parents in the bleachers who may or may not be spewing negativity, get yourself a comfortable lawn chair and SIT, rather than stand along the sidelines. Sitting tends to communicate to your child that you enjoy watching, rather than standing and pacing, which says, “I’m tense and I have to work out my nervous energy!”
Must Have #5: A venting person.
For those days when you are frustrated, have a confidant you can turn to who will let you vent without consequences and who will not repeat what you say to others. This person may be a friend or spouse, but it should not be: the coach, your child, another parent, or other members of the team.
Must Have #6: Team Gear.
Of course, you don’t have to wear a team shirt or hat to show your spirit, but it just makes the game a bit more fun for you as a proud parent. I loved wearing a sweatshirt to my son’s high school football games that had his name and number on the back.
Must Have #7: Recording device.
You don’t have to be a techno genius to record, live stream, or use any number of updating apps that will allow you to track the game–either showing the action to people who can’t attend, or saving it to view later. It’s been 3 years since my kids finished playing college sports, and in that time, there’s been a ton of new apps (plus updates to Facebook) that give you so many options for saving memories. Take advantage of them! I wish I’d had them a few years back.
Must Have #8: Other voices.
When it comes to motivating kids, parents don’t always do the best job. It’s not that they give poor advice, it’s that kids often don’t take that advice to heart. And besides that, parents pushing their athletes can sometimes bring tension to their relationship. Enlist the help of coaches, trainers, teammates, and other adults to speak truth to your child.
Must Have #9: A life.
A life outside of youth sports, that is. If your entire world is wrapped up in how many hits your child gets, how many aces she serves, or how many goals he scores, your world view is too small. Have other interests and if those interests occasionally pull you away from a game (gasp!!), your child will survive. Show your child that there really is more to live that his/her sports.
Must Have #10 An end game.
Every sports parent should have an end game. When it’s all said and done, what do you want your child to get from his youth sports experience? When her glory days are over, what should stay with your child for life? Here’s a radical thought: it’s really not about the sport, it’s who your child becomes in the process.
If you can check all these items off on your list, then you’re ready for a positive youth sports season!