When you think of a "crazy" sports parent, it probably conjures images of a jerky dad yelling at a referee or a mom hounding the coach for not giving her child enough time on the field. Maybe you also think of a parent admonishing their child for losing a game or forcing them to play a sport they are not even interested in. To me though, it can also be a good thing. Sometimes, the "crazy" sports parents are just parents that care a lot about their children having a chance to excel at something they enjoy. Taking your kid's sports seriously and being closely involved is not always a bad thing, as I am seeing now with my own children.
I have always been a competitive person and somewhat of an athlete. Winning does mean something to me and I also feel that sports can be a key to my children's future success almost as much as academics. They have both showed early promise with a few sports and to that end, my husband and I are very supportive of their efforts. We buy the equipment, we give them many opportunities to practice and we encourage them every step of the way. We take it seriously so that they will too. We also both believe that there is no harm in telling them that winning is a good goal to have and that they need to focus during a game in order to support their teammates and achieve their personal best. We are never mean and we don't yell or shame but it is not unusual for us to pull one of them aside and give them a quick "pep talk". Judging by their enthusiasm, what we are doing works for our family.
Every child is different and some kids might not respond well to competition and instruction on how to improve. Recreational sports with the goals being teamwork and acquisition of basic skills can also be quite valuable. However, some kids are ready to compete at a younger age and can handle the pressure. We had our kids enrolled in a recreational soccer league this winter and while they were having fun, they both bemoaned the fact that the coaches did not keep score and that winning was never discussed. They also get bored easily and seem to respond better to a constant stream of drills and activity. We did some research and found a more serious travel league in our area that emphasizes skills and growth but also, competition. We took them for a test practice last week and we were thrilled with what we saw.
This new league does not coddle the kids. They are sent from one station to the next, doing drills to increase their speed and agility as well as receiving instruction during play. The coaches are not there to be their best friends, they are there to teach them how to become better soccer players. They aren't mean, but they are definitely not shy about telling the kids how to improve. The purpose of the test practice was to see how our kids handled the more competitive atmosphere and I am happy to say -- they loved it. On the car ride home, they were both brimming over with stories about this drill and that coach and how much fun they had. They loved the fast pace and the no-nonsense vibe. Again, I know this is not for all young kids, but I know my children and it is absolutely for them.
In upping the ante with this new league, we were listening to our kids and what they want to do. At no point did we force them and we would not have considered it if we thought it would not be productive and positive for them. Some might think we are a little nuts for having seven and five year old children enrolled in competitive sports, but the way they are responding shows that we are doing the right thing. If they were lukewarm about it, we would never push them but we see tons of excitement and a decent level of talent, so we are rolling with it. If either ever expressed unhappiness, we would definitely entertain the idea of pulling them. We are not "crazy", just supportive and excited. We are happy to do whatever we can to ensure their future success, as long as they are enthusiastic and thriving.