declaration of independence from pressure about youth sports

One thing is for sure: my boys are passionate kids. From identifying fossils to memorizing Star Wars trivia and obsessing over facts about U.S. Presidents, they’ve explored many interests over the years. When something sparks their curiosity, they dive in headfirst, spirits soaring. Their enthusiasm is contagious and fills our home with joy. Whether it’s science or art or weird little Pokemon battle characters, I absolutely love encouraging their interests.

One thing that never sparked their curiosity over a conspicuous number of years was … sports.

They were active; constantly climbing, jumping and chasing each other, but when I asked “Wanna play catch? Nope. Kick a ball? Shrug. Join a sports team with your buddy? No way. Their dad tried too, and often. To no avail.

We questioned whether we were doing this *parenting boys thing* right, but we didn’t want to force them, so we supported the unique individuals they are and all was well.

every child

But at times I worried that when they finally discovered a game they liked, they would be too far behind to enjoy being on a team, and it would affect their confidence and it would be all my fault for not motivating them at a younger age… (a little dramatic, I know – I tend to blame myself for everything when it comes to my kids, am I alone in this? 😉

Also, in my heart of hearts, I wanted them to experience what it’s like to be part of a team to learn social skills, sportsmanship and channel their larger-than-life little boy energy in a constructive way; I know I’m not alone in that.

Way has led onto way, and we’ve now had a few years of experience of dipping our toes into the water of various teams and have had a variety of experiences.

I’ve been the mom holding her breath while her kindergartener is **that kid** blatantly missing the ball, scoring goals for the other team and mistakenly defaulting to tai kwon do kicks on the soccer field.

I’ve beamed with pride when another mom came up to compliment my son for providing an encouraging word to an injured child on the opposing team.

I’ve winced in pain (trying not to growl) while overhearing a dad encourage his child’s complaints that my son was lazy, due to his confusion while learning the game.

I’ve sighed with enormous relief when my son finally caught on and inconspicuously fit in with his teammates’ skill levels, without seeming scarred by the process of getting to that point.

I’ve seen my son’s playful exuberance and imagination shut down by boys who were hanging their heads low about losing a game.

I’ve been amazed at the skills my children can learn after developing a genuine love for a sport.

I’ve forgotten camping chairs, cleats and sunscreen.

I’ve relished gorgeous afternoons at the ball field.

I’ve realized how lucky we were to have so many years of *pre-sports weekends* as a family, free of commitments, to hike, explore and enjoy time as a family in whatever way we spontaneously decided.

Lately, I’ve seen a basketball obsession sieze my household and have found myself wondering if the boys will discover a passion for athletics after all. I don’t have a crystal ball to determine their future interests, but I do know a few things I’ve learned about myself, even after the limited experience I’ve had as a sports mom.

sportsmommanifesto

I’ll never force my kids to participate on a team (been there, tried that – no one won).

But if they choose to start a season, I’ll probably make them finish it.

I will want to be there for every game as much as physically possible.

My heart will soar when they seem to know what they’re doing and crash when they look vulnerable out there, but I’ll do my best to stay centered and smiling for them.

I will never run out of energy to coach and encourage them when they’re receptive to learning – it’s my favorite part of being a mom.

work ethic

I will value their hard work and positive attitude more than their talent or statistics, and I’ll make sure they know it.

I will love watching the super talented kids rock their skills, but I’ll probably cheer loudest when the underdog has a special moment.

I will be relieved when a coach on either team backs his best players off, when he’s already established a significant lead.

I will especially enjoy watching kids whose faces light up every time they get the ball (I love joy).

I will cheer for the other team sometimes (okay, a lot), especially for the kid who did something amazing or is under a lot of pressure at the moment.

I will absolutely adore hearing the kids support each other with cheers from the bench.

I will inwardly groan, grit my teeth and take deep breaths I learned in labor classes, when I see grown ups display poor sportsmanship, unless I really feel the need to say something – then, I’ll speak from my heart and try to be a good role model for the kids.

I will keep perspective of the big picture of what really matters in life beyond this particular game (and try to help my child do the same, no matter how much heart he’s put into winning.)

I will enjoy building relationships with their teammates and families.

I will probably bring a book to the fields sometimes though (I’m an introvert, it has to happen).

I will do my best to remember when it’s my turn to bring snacks, but I will never judge the mom who forgets (it sooo could have been me).

I will be more loyal to the sparkle in the children’s eyes than any particular team.

I will put their health and well being as the top priority, whether they like it or not.

I will not succumb to external pressure to sign them up for multiple activities, but I will schedule them to the moon and back if it feels like the best way to help them thrive.

I will assume every kid is doing their best given their unique circumstances.

I  will seize every teachable moment to instruct my boys on sportsmanship, team-work and positive attitude.

I will trust coaches to teach the game skills, and I’ll thank God the coaches know how to teach them game skills I don’t have (it takes a village).

I’ll be more protective of their core values than their winning streaks.

I’ll be their biggest fan whether they discover some talent or not.

If they do become champions and let it go to their heads, I’ll be the first to bring them down to earth (Remember when you were five and didn’t know the difference between a baseball and a football? Do you want to hear more stories like that, son?” 😉

And last but not least, I will pour as much of myself as I can into their teams and our Quad City Sports *Mom* Ship community. As our kids get older, they are increasingly influenced by each other, coaches and thankfully us moms – we’re all in this together!

What is YOUR mama sportsmanship manifesto? What values do you hope to instill in your kids through athletics? What have been your experiences so far? We’d love to hear from you.

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