It was a television commercial that prompted the question from my 17-year-old son.
“Was I ever like that?”
The “that” to which he was referring was a muddy, sweaty, messy-haired little guy celebrating a soccer team victory.
“Many times,” I smiled back. “Many, many times.”
I looked at him. That little guy now has a good inch on me, a deep voice and hairy legs. Time flies, but I still have the memories — memories of him, his brother and sister.
Many of those memories center on sports — soccer, baseball, softball, football, basketball, volleyball, track — and that’s just a start. I never kept an official list, but as I quickly tally the combined sports activities of my three kids over the last umpteen years, it’s close to one hundred different seasons that included many hours of practices, carpooling, cleaning dirty uniforms, team parties and hours sitting in bleachers cheering.
Ironic for a guy who grew up with little interest in sports, but what I lack in first-hand sports experiences as a youth, I’ve made up for as a sports parent. A professional? Not quite. But I’ve figured out a few things.
In my opinion, our job as parents is to help expose our kids to a variety of things that will open their eyes, give them a taste of something new, and most importantly, help them find their passion. For my children, sports have provided many great experiences including:
Teamwork. The benefits to being a part of a team are enormous. Team sports teach basic skills, plus they let kids experience things like compassion and humility.
Responsibility. While it’s important for all kids to enjoy freedom, learning the responsibilities that come with sports is a beneficial life skill. Even if the primary take-away is simply the importance of getting to every practice on time, it’s a good thing.
Commitment. Every one of my children had moments when he or she wanted to quit. It was too hard. They weren’t good enough. They wanted to watch television. The list goes on. Sticking with something when it gets a little tough is an important experience, and your children can learn from it, provided they are safe and not being unreasonably pushed.
Respect. A good coach will help your child learn a lot about respect for adults, teammates, opposing teams, and most importantly, themselves.
Fun: Last on this list, but first in terms of importance. Sports for kids should be fun!
Mom and Dad’s Checklist
Before signing up your child for a new sport, follow these simple tips:
Find out how coaches are trained and the league’s player safety policies and procedures.
Confirm practice and game schedules. Reconsider the commitment if your child has a lot of conflicts from day one. And make sure he or she knows what’s involved before signing up.
Ask how you can volunteer. No matter your skills, most organizations welcome help.
Learn about your child’s equipment and how it should fit, and be sure to recheck it all season long since kids continually grow.