I became involved in the world of sports parenting in the early 1990s when I was serving as the roving sports psychology coach for the Cleveland Indians. During those years, my own three kids were very young and just being introduced to the uncharted territory of youth sports. I was curious as what they (and my wife and I) might expect as they entered in the wild frontier of sports.
I wrote my first sports parenting book, GOOD SPORTS, which was published in 1992 by Dell. It was meant to provide an overview and prescriptive advice for Moms and Dads who had kids in sports. I recall doing doing hours of research for the book, and discovering so little in the library (this was, of course, pre-Internet and Google) about sports parenting. But there was certainly enough to fill the book, and as the years have progressed, the interest in this challenging topic has only grown more and more.
A few years after the GOOD SPORTS book came out, I was hired by Sports Illustrated to write a few columns on youth sports. But the response to those columns was so overwhelmingly positive that SI asked me to keep writing more columns. Over the course of the next ten years, I wrote hundreds of pieces for SI. By then, and judging from the bags of mail I received each week, parents (and coaches) everywhere were looking for answers and guidance. It was clear that sports parenting was becoming more and more complicated. Ultimately, all of this led to my weekly sports parenting show on WFAN Sports Radio in NYC, which I have hosted and produced for close to 17 years.
The reason I mention all of this is because it’s become clear to me that each year, an entire new group of young sports parents come into focus. Yes, they may have played sports themselves as kids, and they love sports, but as sports parents, they are often not prepared to know what it means when their little one takes the field for the first time.
To that end, I wanted to take a moment to present a short list for new sports parents. In other words. if the world of sports parenting is new to you, you might find this helpful:
THE LIST OF DON’T ASSUMES….
Dear new Sports Parent:
Don’t assume….you know how to coach kids just because you used to play the sport. Playing the sport…and coaching it…are two different talents.
Don’t assume….you know how to handle your emotions when you watch your kid play. The truth is, very few of us can. Instead of grimacing during a game, do the best you can to put a smile on your face.
Don’t assume….you know how to talk to your child after a game is over. Give them plenty of time to chill in the car on the way home. DO NOT give them a post-game analysis. Let them doing the talking about the game – not you.
Don’t assume……you know the rules better than the ref or umps…especially if it’s a sport you didn’t play as a kid. For example, I never played soccer, ice hockey, or lax as a kid. So when my kids played those sports, I had to learn the rules for the first time.
Don’t assume….your child is blessed with unique and special athletic talent….chances are he or she isn’t. Yes, you want them to reach their full athletic potential, but let’s be candid: you have a better chance of winning the lottery than of your kid being the next great professional superstar.
Don’t assume……you know more about game strategy than the coach does….if you do, then maybe you should coach next year.
Don’t assume……the other parents on the sidelines look upon you as some of sports expert, that somehow you know more about the sport than they do. Best bet? Keep your comments to yourself. You never know who’s listening.
Feel free to download this list of Don’t Assumes and share it with your youth league administrators. In the meantime, my show airs live each Sunday from 8-9 AM EST on WFAN Sports Radio. You can stream it live on WFAN.com, and if you miss a show, you can link to each week’s podcast.