For many parents, youth sports is both a blessing and a curse. We love the fact that physical activity is good for our kids’ physical and emotional development, but attending every game can be a challenge for busy parents.
As a sports mom for 21 years, I can remember the weekends lost to volleyball, softball and basketball tournaments. I recall racing across town from my daughter’s basketball game so I could watch my son play in his basketball game. Our kids wanted us there and I always loved watching them play.
In the book,Whose Game Is It, Anyway? A Guide to Helping Your Child Get the Most from Sports author Dr. Ginsburg replies to the question, “Should I go to all of my children’s games?”:
This is a fascinating question because times are so different now. Our parents came to the games when they could. If they had a commitment, it wasn’t a big deal to miss the game. Now, many parents feel they are not good parents if they miss any of their children’s games.
So what do our kids want? In our research on this very question, we learned that almost 100 percent of youth soccer-playing kids ages 7 to 14 wanted their parents to attend their games. Our kids want us to watch them play, to witness the wins and losses, the accomplishments and the disappointments.
And that is why many parents feel guilty if they have to miss a game. We hate to disappoint our children and we hate the thought of missing their successes. I really think that we hate missing their games more than they hate for us to miss their games.
But attending every game isn’t always practical for parents and, I am here to tell you, Parents, that you need to stop feeling guilty if you can’t make it to every single game. It’s okay to miss a game now and then. And here are three reasons why it is Okay.
Reason #1: The Kids are Playing Youth Sports for Them, Not YOU
In his book, Dr. Ginsburg also notes that focusing too much on a child’s sports schedule can send the message that the children are playing for us and not for themselves.
Ideally, we want to avoid the situation where the event of the game becomes more important than just watching our kids play, Ginsburg says.
Parents have a tendency to take over youth sports, making it all about what they want, when all their child really wants is to have fun and play with friends.
Parents, youth sports is for the kids, not for us. They don’t play to stroke our ego because we have a talented child, or to provide us with an outlet for our own frustrated athletic attempts when we were younger.
Your kids should be playing for themselves. Period. If you have to miss a game here and there, be sure they understand that. And, for goodness’ sake, don’t risk life and limb to be at their games on time or neglect an important obligation because you can’t stand to miss one game.
Reason #2: Sometimes Parents are a Distraction
Perhaps your child has actually said he would prefer you don’t come to his sporting event. This can happen as kids get older and the competition stiffens. Your young athlete may be nervous playing in front of you for any number of reasons.
In extreme cases, kids may feel their parents are a distraction, either through how they cheer or yell during games. Much of the time, children are tuned in to how we behave during games, so the most common sentiment from more competitive and older children is, “It’s okay to come to my games, but be a good fan; please don’t be a distraction.”
Reason #3: Your Over-involvement May Chase Your Kids from the Game
When parents are too invested in their kids’ sports experiences, it may result in some very negative parenting behavior and when that happens kids are more likely to quit.
When parents yell at coaches, officials, and players during the game, when they fight their kids’ battles or are critical of their child’s performance, kids may decide that the pressure is just not worth it.
You may hate missing your kids’ games, yet if must, it’s okay; it can be a reminder to your child that the game belongs to them, not to Mom and Dad.
So if You Have to Miss, Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If you find yourself racing frantically to make a game or reorganizing your entire weekend to attend a sporting event that you just found out about, I hereby give you permission to not feel guilty and skip it. Your support is something that goes way beyond your presence at an event. It’s an ongoing attitude of encouragement and acceptance, not just you sitting in the bleachers at every event.
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