Being the Parent of a Youth Athlete: Am I Doing It Right?

I grew up playing sports (particularly softball), and as an adult, I’ve looked forward to the day my kids would play. My summers were spent at the ballfields – playing, practicing or tagging along to watch mom and dad play.

When we weren’t at the field, my sister, myself and various neighborhood kids were playing wiffle ball in the big yard that separated my parent’s house from Mindy’s parent’s house. We’d play for hours on end, or until a fight broke out (always a crapshoot as to which would happen first). During the summers Amy and I lived for softball and were devastated when bad weather would cause our games to be rescheduled.

Because my early years of ball were such a strong influence in my life, I’m hopeful they will be for my kids too. But I’m starting to realize being the parent of an athlete is hard.

Really hard.

It’s a constant balancing act, and all you really want is for them to have fun (and hopefully love the game).

I hope to be like my mom and dad were. Supportive and helpful – teach them to become better players and understand the game, but also knowing where to draw the line. Give suggestions for improvement, but don’t go overboard. Analyze and talk through the game after it’s over, but not to the point where they aren’t interested anymore.

I want to give my kids all of the encouragement in the world, but I’m not going to baby them. If they don’t put in the work, I won’t tolerate “it’s not fair” complaints. It’s just not my style, and it’s just not the way life works. If you’re not willing to practice pitching at home, I’m not going to let you be upset with anyone other than yourself if you don’t get the chance to pitch. Sorry, not sorry.

Sports are a great way to learn life lessons, all while having fun and making lifelong friends. I was fortunate to have great coaches and great opportunities to play. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure my kids do too, for as long as they want to play. Even if it makes me an emotional mess in the stands.

Photo credits: Megan Mullins, a fellow Kansas Hammers parent.

2017, How Did I Do?

As 2017 was winding down, I revisited my list of goals (I keep it on my desktop for easy access) to see how I had done. I had started the year with 5 pretty simple goals:

  1. Get rid of all the baby stuff. Check!

    Thanks to a very successful garage sale in May, I can say that almost all of the baby/early toddler days stuff (clothes, contraptions, toys, etc.) is gone. There are still a few items remaining that Kate’s continued to use (crib, stroller and high chair, specifically), but I’m not going to rush her out of them. When she’s ready, we’ll get rid of them too. I’m certainly not in a hurry for her to grow up though.

  2. Spend more quality time with each kid each week. Check!

    This was a somewhat subjective goal. I didn’t put any measurements in place to hold myself accountable, but I was especially mindful of this goal in particular and worked really hard to spend more quality time with the kids. I’m certain I did better with Leo and Kate than I did the year before, but Alex… well, he’s such a daddy’s boy that it’s a bit harder for me to get one-on-one time with him. That is something I’m going to work on though.

  3. Improve my strength and general fitness level. Check!

    I intentionally didn’t set specific criteria for this goal. I honestly didn’t know what was possible or how I wanted to focus my efforts. Regardless, I’m certain I’m stronger and more fit than when I ended 2016. I’m playing competitive volleyball on a regular basis. I ran in a couple of adventure races without totally embarrassing myself or wanting to divorce my husband. And I was finally able to get back to playing softball at a level that I felt good about. My daily steps goal (as tracked by my Fitbit) was 7,500, and according to my annual data, I actually averaged closer to 8,500 steps. I still feel like this is an area where I can improve, but I feel great about the work I’ve put in during 2017.

  4. Listen to/Read at least 12 books. Check!

    I totally rocked this one. I didn’t keep track, but thanks to my commute, I think I listened to (and finished) around 20 books during the year. I covered a wide span of genres from tech to biographies to non-fiction. If you know of a great audiobook I should listen to, let me know. If you’re looking for a good book, just ask! I can give you a few ideas. As for reading… well, if you count children’s books I read a BUNCH (many over and over again), if we’re talking actual adult books… well, not so much.

  5. Push DARI to marketing success. Undetermined.

    I feel like I could give myself a “Check” for this one, but because “marketing success” is somewhat ambiguous, I’m leaving it at undetermined. 2017 was a big year for DARI. Our system sales grew significantly from 2016. We had some great PR, brought in some awesome new clients and are starting to get some brand recognition in the performance market. I launched a few websites, created new reports and marketing materials, developed strategies, got feedback from clients, implemented feedback from clients and a whole host of other things. I guess the biggest reason I’m not considering this a “check” is because I know there’s so much more to be done. DARI will be big. 2017 was about building a foundation and getting our ducks in order. 2018 is where things will get really exciting.

So now that leaves me to think about my 2018 goals and what I want to accomplish. I have a solid starts on a few ideas, but I’m giving myself another week or so to flesh them out a bit deeper. Look for another post on that coming soon.

Parenting, a Heavy Weight to Carry

Yes, my boys are both solid, heavy kids, but that’s not really the kind of weight I’m referring to in this post. I’m talking about the responsibility of raising respectful, kind-hearted boys in a world that sometimes seems to be chock full of examples of the contrary.

I know this is a burden that every parent carries, but it seems like some days it weighs on us more heavily than others. For me, yesterday was one of those days.

All week the national news has been reporting on the Ray Rice video and his indefinite suspension from the NFL. Locally, our community is struggling to come to terms with a police officer that was shot and killed after a routine traffic stop went bad. And then there was the anniversary of 9/11, and the reflections of how our world has changed since that awful day when terrorists attacked the Trade Towers.

How has the world gotten like this? (Maybe it’s always been this way, and I’m now old enough to finally comprehend it…?) How can I make sure my kids are raised so they feel safe and secure, yet understand that the world’s a complicated (and sometimes scary) place?

They must have the guidance to become part of the solution and not add to the problem. Respect everyone (and everything). Be kind. Say your prayers. Work hard. Have a good attitude. Don’t take things for granted. Keep having fun.

There’s so much to pass on, how can a parent make sure it happens?

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