I am a crazy sports parent.
No, I don’t scream swear words at the hockey refs when they call a penalty on my kid. And I don’t prowl the sidelines at soccer, threatening to smack moms from the opposing team.
That kind of behavior isn’t crazy: It’s insane. When sports parents act like overbearing nuts and make life hell for the officials, team parents and – worst of all — their own kid, they give all sports parents a bad name.
I am the good kind of crazy sports parent.
Yes, I may seem a little over-enthusiastic when I wave pom poms during my child’s first T-ball game. And, of course, I have at least one team cling sticker on the back window of my minivan.
But if you’re a crazy sports parent like me, you know that it’s not just the kids who reap the benefits of practice and competition.
Being a youth sports parent can bring out the best in us adults, as well.
We build amazing multi-tasking skills. Crazy sports parents have muffins baking in the oven for tomorrow’s lacrosse tournament, a load of stinky uniforms in the laundry, all while gluing Swarovski crystals onto a purple skating outfit. If the muffins burn, we have a bakery phone number on speed dial and know a great Uber driver who will pick up and deliver them to the field.
We know how to pack a nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner for on-the-go days. We may start out ordering more meals than we’d like at fast food drive-throughs. But eventually, we amass a repertoire of recipes with perfect protein-to-carb ratios, all packable in a Tupperware container or thermos. Also, yogurt is its own on-the-go food group.
We are masters of carpooling. Never miss is child’s sports practice or game? It’s a nice idea. In reality, when we have three kids going to three different games across two different counties, we make friends with other parents and play Let’s Swap Kids. Sometimes we come home with the right kid. Other times, it takes a few days to notice the wrong soccer player is at our breakfast table, especially if we happen to make really good pancakes and the kid likes pancakes.
We promote independence early. Again, it’s nice to try to be at every practice and game, and when kids are little, we try extra hard to be there. But once the onslaught of middle school and high school activities and additional practices roll around – and especially if we have multiple kids – we begin to hand over our kid’s sports experience to our kid.
We miss practices. We might miss a few games or competitions. It’s OK. As kids get older, sometimes even our well-meaning enthusiasm in the stands can feel a bit much. We know it’s OK to let them play a game here or there where it’s all about their own enjoyment, and not about whether they are making Mom and Dad proud.
We develop a high tolerance for weird smells. What’s that odor in the garage? Is it a dead skunk? Or soccer cleats fermenting after the last tournament of the season? We’ll investigate later. Game of Thrones is about to come on.
We respect the work of volunteers. As crazy sports parents, we’re the first in line to do the work to keep the game going. We bake extra muffins for the fundraiser. We sign up for an extra shift at the concession stand. We take on chairman roles with the club, even though we work full time and don’t have five extra hands.
We see all the good our kids get from their sport, and we want to keep the club going; we want to extend that good to our communities.
When we show up at other club’s fields and rinks and tournaments, we thank the volunteers and don’t get frustrated with them when things aren’t running smoothly. We know that every event has its moment where things fall apart. We’ve been there, done that, so we try to be patient. We might even jump in and ask, “How can I help?”
We work hard on learning the right things to say to our kids. Sometimes we say the wrong things. We ask, “Why did you take that shot?” after a losing hockey game. We say, “You weren’t even trying!” at a botched gymnastics competition. But then we see the pained look on our kid’s face. We see the hockey stick thrown in the corner and not picked up for days.
And because we’re so crazy about our kids and hate to see them miserable over something they once loved, we search out the right things to say.
We read blogs by other crazy sports parents – moms and dads who’ve been down the path we’re on –and try to learn from their missteps. We finally believe the coach who says, “Sports are about learning to work hard, but kids work hard so they can have fun.”
We take to heart that telling our kids, “I love to watch you play,” no matter the score, is the participation trophy every child deserves.
So the next time someone calls you a “crazy sports parent,” smile and thank them. We are, it turns out, pretty awesome.
Josette Plank is the assistant editor at Central Penn Parent. You can follow her blog, Suburban Resistance, at CentralPennParent.com.