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.

Leo Lately – March 2018

In honor of Leo’s upcoming 9th birthday, I thought the timing was right for a post about Leo Lately. (With a quick search I realized I haven’t done this is 3 years. Yikes!) It’s really amazing how much this kid has grown and changed, particularly in the last year.

Growth – Leo’s nearly outgrown all boy’s sized clothing and shoes. I’m certain we’ll be doing our back-to-school shopping this summer in the Men’s section… just another sign my baby is growing up. I’m hopeful this will be the year he starts to care (at least a little) about what we buy. Although, given the big jump in cost for men’s clothing/shoes as compared to boys, maybe him being open to anything wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Photo credit: Mrs. Fawl's 3rd Grade Class Facebook Group

3rd Grade – This year Leo has been in Mrs. Fawl’s class at Overbrook Attendance Center. I honestly can’t tell you how impressed I have been with Mrs. Fawl’s teaching approach. Leo doesn’t have homework, nor does he bring home endless amounts of completed worksheets. I’m certain they do some of that stuff, but they spend their time on projects. He’s done many reports where he’s had to do research and then present what he’s learned; building projects where his team starts with sketches; uses a budget to purchase supplies; tracks their changes and keeps their expenses in-check all while designing and building roller coasters or disaster-proof houses or a house for the Three Little Pigs. Then after they’re done building, they have to see if their creations met the initial challenge. Mrs. Fawl has an amazing way of incorporating all of the subjects into the projects so the kids learn without even realizing they are learning. Honestly, it’s a lot like what I do at work everyday. I get a challenge, consider solutions, work within a budget, plan, execute and then measure my results to see how successful my solution was. I’m amazed that they’re doing this in third grade. What an awesome experience!

Reading – With Leo’s speech development issues, he’s always struggled a bit with reading. It feels like this past year he’s hit a turning point as he’s been able to catch back up to grade-level. I even think he’s starting to enjoy it. I don’t think his reading interest will probably ever be on par with his math, but I’m glad he’s not struggling as much as he had been.

Sports – Leo loves sports and being active in general. He played soccer with his friends at Overbrook last fall and basketball with them this winter. Now we’re starting to gear up for a summer full of baseball with his Hammers team. They’ll play league at Lake Shawnee and will travel a bit for four tournaments this summer. I’ve been a little concerned at the level of commitment his Hammers baseball team requires given his age, but I’m sensitive to it and constantly watching to make sure he’s having fun. His biggest challenge at this point is adapting to hitting kid-pitch. We’re working on improving his swing mechanics at home, so hopefully that will help. I know from my years of playing traveling softball that everything is a whole lot more fun when you’re confident at the plate.

Siblings – Leo’s a great big brother. For the most part, he takes his role of being the oldest and setting a good example seriously. (Sometimes a bit too seriously as he likes to step in for mom and dad every now and then.) He’s very connected to both Alex and Kate and always wants to play with them when he’s at my house.

Affectionate – Leo loves hugs and being physically close to someone (sitting by them or touching them). He’s still a little too young to know for sure, but I think Physical Touch is probably going to be one of his Love Languages. He certainly likes the action of showing/receiving affection from his family.

Responsibility – Probably the biggest change I’ve seen in Leo over the last year is the amount of responsibility he’s starting to show. He’s really started to figure out that he’s responsible for getting himself dressed and ready for school in the morning. He has to remember to take his allergy pill. He is capable and should get his own snacks/drinks. He needs to remember if he has something in his book bag that needs attention for the next day. I think the fact that he bounces back and forth between Brandon’s house and mine probably places an extra amount of need on this skill, but he’s starting to get it. And I’m grateful!

Gamer – Leo loves to play games. Board games, card games, any kind of game, he’s in. While he’s technically still a little young to be playing a lot of them, he jumps right in. I know a few of his current favorites are Cover Your Assets, Splendor, The Train Game, Golf, Old Hell and Nerts. I’m always impressed by how quickly Leo picks up on the rules and starts to follow along on the strategy. I feel bad for his friends as he gets older. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Top 5 Things I Love About Lebo

5. It’s been almost a dozen years since I’ve lived in Lebo and for the most part, everyone still knows my name. Or at least that I’m one of the Gillespie girls.

4. You can go anywhere and never worry about locking your car. And locking your house? What the heck for, are you going on vacation or something?

3. Casey’s pizza. Enough said. If you’ve not tried a slice, you’ve not really lived the full glory of small town life.

2. Spending quality time with my family, which is especially great when my brother and sister are also home. Guaranteed laughs, usually some good food and a few beers, and always reminiscing and telling great stories of us growing up.

1. No matter how long it’s been, someone will still stop me and comment about “remembering back when you girls were in high school” and then reference the volleyball or basketball team. Always feels good to be remembered for our former athletic glory. Lebo loves good sports teams and the entire town goes out of their way to show support (the image above was pulled from the Lebo Wolves Facebook Page). If you were on a team that made a lasting mark, people remember.