My kid is a little bit of a day dreamer. At his soccer games, I used to joke that if you pass my kid the ball that he might contemplate kicking it. That’s not entirely true, though. Since Boodah is usually thinking about Star Wars and not whatever sport he is playing, it’s probably more correct that if you pass the ball, he’ll then pretend he’s blowing up the Death Star.
Throughout my 7 year old’s convoluted athletic career, we’ve traded sports time and again. He’s been involved in martial arts, tee ball, kiddie gym classes and more. He’s dabbled in soccer, my favorite sport, and after seeing a few clips of Michael Jordan on YouTube, he’s decided he’s into basketball.
Recently, I heard that his best friend, Oliver –who is a year younger—made it on to a local travel soccer team at age 6. At first I didn’t know whether to cheer, be jealous, or get out kiddo’s cleats and get practicing. But it served as a great moment --as a sports fan, a dad, and a (presumably) grown man—to check myself.
Days like this year (and every year) Father’s Day gives us a day as dads to be put on a pedestal. But it doesn’t hurt to consider a few things to make the sports fan dad, or the father of an up-and-coming athlete better as a fan to your kid. Here are a few tips for the sports nut-turned-responsible-father:
Take It Easy
Unless your kid is playing in the penultimate game of his or her career, with an entourage of college and pro scouts in the stands, take a moment to calm down. Is the game and the league your kid is participating in about having fun? Chances are it is about fun and the experience of the experience. This goes even for competitive travel team sports too.
You’ll probably find that as a parent (and even a parent/coach) that when you take a breath and consider your kid’s sports career with the proper perspective that you will have more fun watching him or her play. And by default you’ll be a more supportive sideline parent.
Besides, if your kid goes pro, you're probably out as his agent.
Let the Coach do the Coaching
It’s OK to have a word with your child athlete before and after the game and even between innings and during halftime, if permissible. As a father, your words will serve as constructive criticism and a well-placed pep talk.
That said, whether your kid is playing soccer, baseball or you’ve got a teenage girl in junior roller derby, keep in mind that the team’s coach is there to do a job. It’s often times an unpaid job and volunteer gig. But the even little league coaches need some positive support from the fans just like Jim Harbaugh or Urban Meyer during the big, big games.
If your kid is a daydreamer like mine, make sure to encourage him or her to listen to the coach. Communication is one of the biggest parts of every sport, and by encouraging your kid to be engaged, he or she will get more out of the game.
Even better: make sure to thank your kid’s coach after every game and have your child do the same.
Enjoy Sports for what it is: Life
The best thing about sports when you’re a kid isn’t the world of opportunity that sports afford you. There’s no money in it, no fans wanting your autograph, and hopefully no fame to go with your home run hitting abilities.
For kids, what sports offer is a fun and healthful way to experience life. That includes the good, such as winning and the feelings of elation one gets with accomplishment. But sports also teach our kids how to deal with losing and compromise, how to deal properly with frustration and disappointment, and even the rejection that comes with sitting on the bench instead of playing.
As most of us grownups know, everyday life isn’t about the trophies or plaques you have on your wall. Moreover, championship rings can get lost, or your fingers just grow out of them. What is most important are the experiences we gain, what we learn, and the fun memories of play with others and being involved.
Last of all, remember that childrens' sports is about your kid. Play your proper role. Sit down, and be a great fan.