10 back-to-school tips for sports parents
With start of the school year upon us, here are 10 tips for “back-to-school” sports parenting that will help you and your kids enjoy games and activities together.
1. Remember the first rule of sports parenting: Your kid isn’t LeBron James. Rec-league and even travel-league play should be about working hard, listening to coaches, being a good teammate and having fun. (Intentional omissions: Winning, personal stat lines.)
2. Encourage your kid to play more than one sport. All meaningful evidence shows that even if your kid loves one sport more than any other, kids are still better off playing multiple sports, even at the expense of additional hours in the “main” sport you hope they’ll be using to finance college.
3. Find league options that work for you. Access to local teams and leagues is inconsistent and often expensive, but there are a lot of new activities beyond traditional soccer-baseball-football, including disc golf, parkour and, yes, esports. There are a gazillion ways for your kid to participate in an organized team or league or “free-form.” Your priority should be to encourage kids to do something active.
4. Active time should come before screen time. It goes without saying that school work comes first, but if you make activity a physical priority, too, so will your kid.
5. Unless you’re the coach, you’re not the coach.
6. If you’re not your kid’s team’s volunteer parent coach, ask how you can help the person who is. It doesn’t mean you will have to spend hours on the practice field; contributions of time or energy are always welcome, in any increment. (If you’re a volunteer parent coach, you have all our thanks.)
7. Consider creating a for-fun fantasy football league for kids and parents to join together. It won’t be for everyone, but my kid played in a league with his pals as a fourth-grader last year and they seemed to love it, particularly the draft night. Plus, it led to some great conversations as we discussed players and games together. My prerequisite was that a parent was overseeing everything and that all the kids’ parents were involved enough to monitor their kids’ use of the laptop or phone to check their rosters and scores.
8. Cheer on your local high school team from the rattling bleachers. Don’t limit your trips to football. Add in soccer, field hockey or anything else your kid might show an interest in. The high school athletes will really appreciate the support, too.
9. If your budget allows, let your kid pick out a new jersey or jersey-style T-shirt. Chances are, your child has grown since last fall, or maybe a favorite player has changed. It can be a fascinating moment in the parent-kid fandom dynamic, and another great conversation starter.
10. Here’s my best advice of all: Relax. Seriously, your kid isn’t earning or losing the scholarship based on performance on a random fall Saturday soccer field overrun with third-graders. Enjoy watching your kid do something loved (and something you love to watch your child do).
Dan Shanoff writes about parenting for espnW. You can follow him on Twitter at @danshanoff or keep up with his own kids’ back-to-school sports experiences on Instagram at @danshanoff.