Youth Sports Teach Good Life Lessons To Parents Too


Youth Sports Teach Good Life Lessons To Parents TooThe days are finally getting cooler. The fall breeze rustles through leaves, streaked with vibrant red and yellow. Everywhere you look, fans are sporting their orange t-shirts and checkered overalls. Our favorite hound, Smokey, is busy running the field, howling his support for his team. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the echoes of Rocky Top ringing from the top of the mountains. And on all of the practice fields, youth, as young as seven and eight, are getting their first taste of the gridiron. 

This is my son’s first year playing football. I signed him up knowing it would be a learning experience for him. He needed an understanding of the game and how all of the pieces come together. He’d learn to be a good teammate, to give his best effort, to cheer on and support the other players. There are positions, plays, and techniques, all of which he’d need to know. I expected that, but I wasn’t prepared for all of the lessons I, as his mom, would be learning from youth sports.

Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned along the way:

Lesson 1: I am his first teacher of good sportsmanship.

This was a hard-learned lesson that came with some embarrassment and my share of tears. I’ve always respected the coaches and referees, and I’ve made it a point to teach my kids to do the same. My problems came on the sidelines, when my zest for cheering on my son came at the expense of the other players. I vividly recall one such basketball game, as my boy, tall for his age but very mild-mannered and tender, watched as the ball came towards him, and simply moved out of the way because a player on the other team wanted it. My voice rang through as I shouted something along the lines of, “Don’t just give him the ball. You’re twice his size! Go get him!” What followed was the appalled glance from my husband, a few heated words, some tears, and my lesson. I can’t recall exactly what he said to me, but the idea my husband passed along was this: What if my son was that other kid? How would I feel about some mom screaming at her child, twice the size of mine, to cream him? 

Since then, I’ve made it a point to notice the other moms in the stands. Their children have trained just as hard as mine, and they want a victory for them as much as I want it for my son. Do I cheer? Absolutely, loud and proud! My son and his team will always know they have my support, but it no longer comes at the expense of the other team. I can be excited for the good that my team does and still clap respectfully when the other team makes a good play. You see, my children were looking to me to learn how to respect others. I’m learning how to set the bar high.

Lesson 2: This is my child’s game, not my chance to relive my sports dream.

This lesson came as we lost a hard-played game. My heart felt heavy as I watched the team leave the field, their little jerseys plastered in sweat. Though I’d spend over half the game wringing my hands and muttering under my breath, “Let him play. Please let him play,” my son had only been in a mere two minutes. Two plays. That was it. What kind of encouragement could I offer to him? He showed up to every practice, every game, and worked as hard as anyone on that field. He had all of the potential to be a great ball player, but he hadn’t yet learned to play aggressively. To make matters worse, his cousins had driven four hours to come support him in this game. I anticipated his disappointment. What would he say to them? 

To my surprise, he ran to us with a huge smile, sweaty from having stood in the sun for an hour in full football gear. Though I was concerned about his lack of playtime, he wasn’t fazed. That left me wondering why I wanted it so badly. Was it because I was the classic nerd, never good at sports, and wished for him to feel the inclusion that came from playing on the team? Or because, when I did make the volleyball team, I was never very good and didn’t play very much of the game? Was I concerned for him and his feelings or was I using his football experience to replace my feelings of inadequacy in sports? 

I have to constantly check myself to be sure I’m not using my son to relive my younger days. His experience in sports is not meant as my second chance at sports glory or to be part of the cool crowd. It’s his turn. This is his game. 

Lesson 3: My best money saving technique…prep ahead for dinner.

Sports nights are crazy. Between games and practices, evenings fill up really quickly. A common conversation between football moms was dinner and whether our kids had already eaten before we had to be on the field at 5:30pm or whether they would eat afterwards, closer to 8 o’clock. Neither option was ideal, but unless we had unlimited funding to eat out three times a week, we needed a plan. 

There are multiple methods for planning ahead, and each has their place. I work from home, so it was easier for me to do some meal prep ahead of time. I was often in my kitchen cooking dinner at 3:30pm so that we could eat before the game. We also planned ahead to take snacks with us to the game instead of buying concessions. 

My sister, on the other hand, works full-time and has three older kids, all involved in different activities. She sets aside time on a few Saturdays to prepare some freezer meals that can easily go in her crockpot. Knoxville Moms has a few posts about freezer meal ideas.

Other times, I just need a quick meal and have no time to prep. Each time I go shopping, I try to ensure that I have at least one easy meal I can just pop in the oven. Usually, it’s something like frozen pizza or lasagna. The kids are always excited by this. More importantly, they’re full and I haven’t blown by budget. 

Lesson 4: I will cheer on my child, no matter where his life takes him.

My son is probably not the next Peyton Manning. The reality is, when all is said and done, there’s a good chance he won’t even play football after high school. That doesn’t mean we’ve done sports wrong. I haven’t failed as a mom if he’s always too nice to play competitively. He is still learning valuable life lessons about how to be a good teammate. He’s learning to work hard and give every game his best effort.

Wherever his life may lead, I will be right there beside him, cheering him on as his biggest fan. Knowing with each step of the way that I’m learning as much as him.


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