How to survive kid sports

One of my favorite parenting activities is attending my kids’ games. 

Sure, I complain about the busyness of practice schedules. And I don’t always enjoy rushing out the door on a Saturday. 

But once we start throwing the folding chairs in the car, willing the Keurig to fill our travel cups faster and remembering we didn’t wash the game socks (as we search frantically through the hamper), I get excited.  

Not only do we get to see the kids in action, we also get to cross paths with a variety of parents and coaches.

Between our two kids and their various activities, we’ve experienced the gamut of coaching personalities. 

My daughter once had a soccer coach who couldn’t seem to be on time. You can imagine the grumbling that went on between the parents as we tried to figure out, on multiple occasions, which of us was willing to lead the pre-game warm-up routine. Once, he arrived 10 minutes into the game, scarfing down a large breakfast burrito because, he said, he “didn’t wake up early enough” to get his breakfast. 

In such moments, it’s hard to exercise self-control. But we parents have to remember: Our kids are watching us. 

So, let’s take a deep breath and exhale: What should the coach — and you and your child — do to make a sports season successful (at least off the field)? 

The Coaches

It’s unlikely the breakfast-burrito scenario will happen to you. But what should we ask of these individuals who will be with our children — and perhaps influencing their beliefs — two or more days per week? 

1. Be on time. If your coach struggles to be punctual, request a short parent meeting after practice to see if there’s some way to make an adjustment. 

2. Encourage/teach all kids on the team. He or she should take an interest in all the kids, not just the naturally talented or the blood-related ones. If you feel your child isn’t getting fair treatment or attention, consider asking your coach for a five-minute chat after a practice to express your concerns. I wouldn’t suggest doing this on Game Day, as tensions can be high right after a big win or loss. 

3. Teach the game. Ultimately, a coach is there to educate as well as guide the team. Coaches should come armed with a few drills and have the ability to encourage teamwork and fair play, too. 

The Parents

1. Be on time. We all have those mornings when we face Game Day with an unwashed uniform, but if you expect timeliness of your coach, you need to respect timelines, too. This simple step also communicates to your child the life lesson of punctuality and consideration. 

2. Cheer loudly. This might make the introvert in you cringe. But all your child wants is for you to sit on the sideline — and notice that one great kick. And you want to be the first one whooping in excitement. 

3. Cheer loudly for the other kids. 

(Hint: This will require you to learn their names.) Make sure to notice what the other kids on the team are doing. As loudly as you cheer for your team, keep your comments about the other team to yourself. It’s just good sportsmanship and it keeps the air clear if the parent next to you has a child on the opposing team. 

The Players

1. Learn the game. Encourage your children to play the best they can. Even if they’ve never been exposed to the sport, just giving it their all will get them through the learning process. 

2. Respect your coach. Your kids are playing and having fun, but they’ll have even more fun if they can listen and take advice from their coach — and learn to improve their game. 

3. Be a vocal team player. It’s important to learn the fun of being on a team as opposed to just being the star. Teach your child to encourage other players: “Good play. Josie! Great passing!” 

Remember: Your attitude can make the whole experience go smoothly. 

And don’t forget that morning coffee when you have an 8 a.m. game. It will help you survive a dirty uniform and maybe even a disorganized coach.