There really isn’t a much more simple way to say this. Many parents find that they have little time left for themselves after spending so much time on their child’s sport. It isn’t uncommon for athletes as young as eight or nine to have multiple practices and competitions in a week. As a result, parents spend most or all of their free time shuttling children between practices and competitions, eating at fast food restaurants, and staying in cheap motels. The question becomes, “Do you have a life of your own outside your child’s sport?” The following are a few signs that you might be over-involved.
You Attend Most or All Practices
I personally know the parents of two different high school athletes who rearrange their work schedules and other aspects of their lives so they can attend their child’s practices. One indicates he “just wants to have a feel for what’s happening with the team.” The second says he needs to be there so he can give his son feedback on how he is practicing.
Most parents don’t take such drastic measures to attend practice, but some feel they need to be at every training session in order to be supportive. It is important to note that you might be sending the wrong message about keeping sport in the proper perspective when you feel you have to attend all practices. Even when your child is first starting a sport and you have become comfortable with her coach, it is appropriate to drop her off, inform her you will run errands or do something for yourself, and that you will be back in plenty of time to pick her up when practice is finished. By taking this approach, you will let her know that her sport is “her thing” and that she can enjoy it on her own without you having to be there at all times. I am certainly not saying that you never stay and watch practice—just not all of them.
As your child moves into middle and high school, you should feel it is appropriate to drop in every now and then, as long as your son or daughter gives you the permission to do so-yes, I think we need to ask their permission if we want to attend practice. As he gets older, he will likely be embarrassed or at least uncomfortable if you are always in attendance. The key is to communicate with your child as he matures and listen to his desires in this matter.
Your Family Vacations Revolve Around the Athlete’s Sport
Family vacations can be some of the most memorable times for children. Unfortunately, more and more parents are choosing to combine their family vacations with their child’s sport. Once again you are likely to be sending the wrong message about the appropriate perspective regarding sport in your family’s life if this is the case. It is important to take some time as a family that is completely away from any organized sport. Allow your family to have a break from the pressures and“the grind” of the sport. When challenged, one father said his family does take family vacations that do not involve his high school son’s sport. However when asked to elaborate on their vacations, it turns out that the family often drives a motor home and the father will stop every few hundred miles and have his son run wind sprints up and down the side of the road so that he can stay sharp and in shape. It would be interesting to ask that athlete if he truly enjoys those “family vacations.”
In addition to promoting the wrong message about the sport and its significance compared to other aspects of family life, these vacations often cause unnecessary stress for the athlete. You might be more likely to get frustrated with your child if she doesn’t play very well when the whole family has taken this vacation so she could participate in the sport. Your child may begin to worry about letting you and other family members down and even feel guilty because everyone is spending their vacation time at the soccer field rather than on the beach because of her.
Your Circle of Friends is Limited to the Parents of Other Athletes
Take the time to examine your circle of friends and social acquaintances. If most or all are somehow related to the sport your child competes in, you probably don’t have much of a life outside that sport. If this is the case, make an effort to move outside this circle and spend time with adults who have other interests and can encourage you to expand yours. You will certainly send the message that your son or daughter’s sport isn’t everything to you.
The Main Topic of Conversation at Mealtime is Your Child’s Sport
Does your child’s sport dominate the conversation at mealtime in your household? Once again, if this is the case in your family, there is a good chance your child is receiving the wrong message about the importance of her sport compared to other aspects of life. This doesn’t mean that you should never talk about the sport during a meal. However, you should ask the athlete in your family if it is okay to discuss the sport. She might not want to talk about it during this time. If she says it is okay to discuss the sport during mealtime, it certainly shouldn’t be the only topic of conversation. Encourage and allow all members of the family to discuss their interests as well. This will provide a much more healthy balance for you and your child.
You Spend Time in Internet Chat Rooms that Discuss Your Child’s Team
The chat room phenomenon is clearly out of control in the college ranks, and is occurring more often at the high school and even youth levels in some parts of the country. For convenience sake, parents of athletes on the same team often develop an email tree to keep everyone up to date with what is happening with the team. Unfortunately, some parents take advantage of this very useful tool and use it as a chat room where they can have an open forum to discuss issues with their child’s team. Some parents take it even further and establish chat rooms with the sole purpose of discussing their child’s team. Often, parents question coaching decisions, individual athletes and other aspects of the team process. I have personally witnessed how these actions have had a very negative effect on teams. At a minimum, this seems to be a very questionable practice on the part of parents. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in this potentially very destructive abuse of technology.