Sports Parenting – Part 3

**This is the third of a series of posts that will focus on parenting in high school athletics; in fact, I’m going to use all of my July posts to focus on this topic.  There are three quick disclaimers that are needed prior to this series of posts:
–  If you’ve read my blog several times before, you know that I believe strongly in much of the current batch of research and discussion from Dr. Tim Elmore and his organization, Growing Leaders (find his blog here).
–  My opinions are research and experience based – not arbitrary or superficial – but they are my opinions.  I don’t (and won’t) claim to be a parenting expert, but I’ve done a lot of research regarding the benefits of any experience in high school athletics, both good and bad.
–  I promise that not all of the posts will be about how those mean ol’ parents are ruining kids’ sports.  I will also give some perspective and understanding from the parents’ point-of-view as well.

That said, here we go!

In Part 2, I described a couple of the more difficult parental behaviors to deal with from my office.  While the majority of parents are awesome to work with, I do spend significant time trying to manage those two types of parental personalities.
Switching gears today, I’d like to discuss some of the benefits that parents can derive from being a sports parent.

In past posts here and here, I’ve discussed some of the benefits that our students get from participating in athletics.   When done correctly, there are plenty of benefits for the parents, too.  While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, I think that these are some of the more important tangible benefits for parents. (If you’re interested in more info about healthy sports parenting, Changing the Game by John O’Sullivan is a must read!)

1.  A chance to watch your kid perform
If a parent approaches games with a healthy attitude (WATCHING, not interfering!), seeing a kid perform/compete can be a lot of fun.  In a typical day, parents don’t get a chance to see their kids perform…at least, not at anything we take satisfaction out of watching.  We don’t see our kids perform in the classroom, at their jobs, hanging out with friends, etc., but athletics gives us a chance to actually see what they’ve been working on.  Whether he/she is a superstar or a role player, we can track their improvement and take some enjoyment out of watching them participate in an activity that they also enjoy.

2.  A chance to experience what your kid experiences
OK…before you call me a hypocrite, I will fully admit that this is also one of the more dangerous parental attitudes.  If a parent is using a kid’s experiences as a method of either living vicariously through the kid or trying to resurrect the parent’s own long-gone hopes and dreams, then this is not a positive.  However, if a parent uses a kid’s performance as a chance to empathize and relate to the kid, it can be a great way to strengthen the parent-child relationship.  I’ll use myself as an example.  I am still very (borderline unhealthy) competitive; however, I can’t get the extreme highs and lows during the work day that I was able to get through playing and coaching sports.  When I watch my kids perform, I can relate to their excitement after good plays as well as their disappointment after bad plays.  Again, I make sure that my sons don’t see me displaying those raw emotions during games (and I take great care to not discuss those highs and lows with them after games!), but it’s still fun for me to get that rush.  As long as a parent can separate viewing the performance from interacting with the kid, being a part of the kid’s competitive experience can still be enjoyable.

3.  You know where your kid is (and that he/she is safe)
Most parents work until 5:00 every day.  With schools getting out between 3:00-4:00, there is a period of time in every kid’s life that is unaccounted for.  When kids are young, they will go to a day care or some after school program until they get picked up.  For the parent of a high school kid, though, this can be nerve wracking period of time.  When kids are involved in sports, you know exactly where they are, and you know that they are being supervised and cared for.  We charge $60 per sport as a participation fee in our programs; that’s a pretty cheap fee to know a kid is safe.

4.  Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Kids who are involved in extra-curricular athletics tend to stay more involved in physical activity into adulthood.  Of course, being active is related to improved overall health and well being.  Parents of athletes know that their kids have a head start on living a healthier life as adults.

5.  Develop Character/Life Lessons
As I’ve listed in a previous post (linked earlier in this post), kids can learn a ton about being successful in life through their participation in sports. Parents can see their kids learning how to be resilient, hard working, accountable, cooperative, etc. etc. etc.

6.  Lower Dropout Rates; Higher Academic Achievement Rates
There are a ton of studies readily available that use slightly different collection tools (which lead to slightly different data), but all of the results proclaim the same basic theme: students involved in athletics not only have a much lower risk of dropping out of school but also display a significantly higher rate of academic achievement.  Meaning – not only is your kid learning a healthy lifestyle and many positive character traits, he/she is probably getting better grades as well.

7.  Socialization
Again, this can be both positive and negative.  I see plenty of questionable socialization between parents at high school events, too.  It never ceases to amaze me when I see parents with alcohol at YOUTH sporting events.  However, I also see plenty of healthy adult relationships around our sports, too.  Athletics is an opportunity to spend time with other adults who value many of the same things.  When kids of the same age grow up playing sports together, we often see the parents of those kids becoming friends as well.  At a time when kids’ schedules eat up much of our own calendars, it’s nice to have interactions with other adults that we can relate to.

Again, this isn’t a complete list of the benefits of sports parenting; however, the positives of chasing your kids around from field to field and court to court are evident.  Let me know what you think I missed – or what you think I got entirely wrong!

Coming in Part 4 of this series next week, I will empathize with parents regarding our recent trend of unhealthy sports parenting.  My belief is that we, in athletics, are responsible for creating most of the bad behavior we complain about.  My thoughts on that next week…

Questions?  Comments?  Suggestions for a post?  Send me an email, or comment to this post!

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