There are good and bad aspects of being the parent of an athlete, but when you add in the benefits to the child and to you, the good definitely outweighs the bad.
Costs are Often a Parenting Challenge
- Most town or municipal team sports have costly registration fees. School teams have fewer costs attached to them, but you will be expected to pay travel expenses for tournament play.
- Sports equipment for municipal teams can be costly but, fortunately, many teams have fund-raising events to help defray expenses.
- Used sports equipment is for sale privately or through sports organizations at the start of new seasons. Some items, however (e.g., skates, soccer cleats), should be new purchases to give your child the advantage needed to play his best.
- You need provide only individual equipment and sports shoes, etc., for young tennis players, badminton players, distance runners, etc., and schools usually provide coaches in early grades and in high school.
- If your little athlete is a serious contender in an individual sport, you may, at some point, wish to hire a private coach and you will also have to play entry fees and travel costs for competitions.
Family Inconvenience Must be Considered
- Check on such things as the number of games, the length of the season, and what involvement from parents is expected before making a team commitment.
- You have to make sure your little athletes are dressed appropriately and delivered to games and practices on time. There may be many time conflicts with everything from your job to the care of other children and your-free time responsibilities. It is important to have the whole family on board and prepared to accept shifting priorities.
- A back-up plan for transportation will be needed, preferably spelling off other parents to take turns transporting children to practices, and even the occasional game when parents can’t make it. There may be unexpected horribly early or late practices.
- You will have to plan your meals for the family around games and practices or feed your athletes earlier or later than everyone else.
All these problems become easier when you have more than one athlete—or you have young dancers, musicians, or actors—and everyone in the family is used to shifting timetables and inconveniences. The family entertainment begins revolving around watching games—and concerts or plays—and making new friends and socializing with other parents and their families who are involved in the same activities.
Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Assume there will be some injuries, important events missed, coaches who are less than kind or capable, children and parents who are downright unpleasant, officials who are unfair, and days when you would rather not be involved.
You may find—to your horror—you are more focused on your own feelings than those of your child and are demanding much more dedication and effort than your child really wants to expend. You may be pushing your child to succeed because you have begun competing with other parents. Is that you yelling at the coach, the referee, your child, or other children? Are you embarrassing your child and your child’s team?
Have a talk with yourself about what your child is learning and the support he needs from you and make sure you keep your own feelings in check so that you don’t ruin the experience for him. There will be perfect opportunities for you to reinforce desirable attitudes of team play, hard work, empathy, responsibility, and the handling of negative feelings.
The Benefits to Your Child Should Outweigh the Sacrifices
Your child (and you, too) will benefit by the exposure to:
- Early emphasis on the fun of learning how to play a sport and making new friends
- Early training in taking turns, accepting winning and losing, and learning socially acceptable ways of demonstrating the thrill of success and the agony of defeat
- Eventually learning how to handle the pressure of competition; fair and unfair team and coach expectations; and good and bad parental attitudes
- Learning the best ways of handling anger—usually from the reactions of his own parent(s)—how to cope with unfair situations, and how to deal with rude adults
- Learning the importance of scheduling time for homework, sports, and fun time
- Honing skills in one or more sports that can lead to increased self-confidence and a lifetime of enjoyment
Your child may try many different sports rather than concentrating on one, or he may love one and show the dedication of a budding star, scholarship winner, or professional athlete. It is important to honor your little athlete’s feelings and interests in the sports he prefers and the amount of time and effort he is willing to devote.
There are good and bad aspects of being the parent of an athlete, but the benefits for your child’s are countless and, therefore, rewarding for you. Through sports activities, your child is introduced to pastimes that pay off with improved health and weight, an interest in healthy eating, an avoidance of dangerous and addictive practices and, very likely, a longer life.
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