Archives For youth sports parents

They get one childhood

January 26, 2015
Little Heidi

Little Heidi

I remember playing kickball with my group of childhood friends on a small patch of land surrounded by busy streets. We referred to that special stomping ground as the island. We’d meet at the island on the weekends or after school and had specific rules about where we were allowed to kick the ball.

There were the siblings, Chad and his younger brother Jeff, from one house and another girl like me, Amy, from another house. I say Amy was a “girl like me” strictly from an anatomical standpoint. I don’t recall her wanting to play kickball, race (foot or bike), or get dirty half as much as I did. I imagine Amy hung out with us for lack of other options as none of us were as musically gifted as she was. Chad and I were only allowed to kick between the first base tree and second base tree towards the neighborhood gas station because any ball booted over shortstop or third base ran the risk of being run over by a car.

You NEVER wanted to be the one who ruined a perfectly good game of kickball because you kicked the ball into traffic. Talk about the ultimate grade school buzz kill.

Before I knew what it meant to play sports, I was using muscle groups that would help me later in life as a competitor. Climbing branches in tall trees, burrowing deep down into bushes to hide, scaling rooftops, and avoiding traffic…seriously I would never let my kids cross that same street that I maneuvered on a daily basis now that I think about it…these were all everyday activities that formed my childhood.

My kids have ample room to play in our neighborhood. The open space behind our house is quadruple the size of the island and is fortunately not barricaded by moving vehicles. Yet that open space remains empty most days outside of the occasional dog walkers or bicycle riders.

The majority of my kids’ activity schedules is comprised of organized practices and games. Yes, they have friends (some teammates and others not) who sleep over every now and then, and they know what it’s like to go on a scavenger hunt or a random hike just to soak in nature and all its glory, but I’m willing to bet that my kids’ lives aren’t too drastically different from other kids their age – at least those kids whose parents are like my husband and I and signed them up for sports from an early age.

I’ve been asked by many about what motivated me to launch GiveTheGameBack.com. What inspired me to share my own personal story about watching my children compete in sports while tuning out the sometimes negative feedback from adults on the sidelines? What was my turning point in recognizing I needed to tone down my own competitiveness and desire to win? What urged me to take a stand?

The answers to all of those questions was something on which I had to really reflect.

I was motivated to launch an information site (support group) for sports parents and promoters that includes custom apparel designed to give the game back to youth athletes, because I want to be a voice for the silent majority who are putting their kids in organized sports for the right reasons.

I was inspired to share my story because I am far from perfect. I don’t want to come off as a holier than thou mom who doesn’t have the foggiest idea about what it means to prepare athletes for the next level of competition. I may take a few bruises by sharing my belief system, but I am of the mindset that you’ve either got it or you don’t when it comes to playing sports at the collegiate level and beyond. To me, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to dump thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars into trying to transform your little kid into the next Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Pele, Jerry Rice, (insert idolized athlete name here). It makes better sense to place your child on a team where he continues to hone his or her personal athletic abilities, playing for a coach who believes that sports teach lessons that extend well beyond the playing field, and with respectful and respectable teammates.

My turning point was a few summers ago when I caught myself questioning my son’s future potential because he wasn’t mastering a skill at 9 years of age that took me well into my collegiate playing days to master myself: the art of hitting a moving ball with a moving bat consistently and effectively. I challenge parents (because I’ve lived it myself) to stop and think before you yell or express frustration with your budding athletes. Ask yourself: Was I perfect in every endeavor I set out to conquer this week? If you answer “no” (and, for the record, I don’t believe you if you answer “yes”), then how can you expect a child whose brain and motor skills aren’t fully developed to do any better?

Recollecting my own childhood of playing kickball on the island urged me to take a stand. I had a fantastic, memorable childhood that involved self-discovery, taking risks, and exploring boundaries. Then I had 20+ years of playing competitive sports, which meant more to me than I can describe here. I had parents who supported me through my triumphs and tribulations. I vow to do the same for my own kids.

They get one childhood. Always remember that.

Written by Heidi Woodard

I inserted the word “Sunday” because it makes for a catchy title; however, make no mistake, adults are more than capable of embarrassing themselves and their children on any day of the week.

Been there. Done that.

 

No one needs to see mom get carried away. Slow your roll, mom.

No one needs to see mom get carried away. Slow your roll, mom.

 

I had written a post two Sundays ago giving advice to youth sports parents and coaches about the proper mentality and behavior that one should ideally possess and demonstrate in front of a group of kids. I wrote this reminder as much for me as I wrote it for others.

Since that post, I’ve started rounding up a team of people I respect to help me turn a dream into a reality. I wish I could reveal what exactly I’m planning to do, but it’s too premature at this point to give away any hints. For now, I am publicly going on record to say that I’m building something that is directly aimed at adults who want to support youth athletes the right way.

Until this very real idea of mine comes to fruition, I have a very facetious 10-Step Process for everyone who wants to show their “support” of youth athletes without getting arrested.

Here are the steps to follow to ensure your kid has a good time with their friends playing a game that they (hopefully) love:

Step 1: Offer words of encouragement
Before your drop off your kid at their respective sports field, track, gym, tennis court, pool, etc., turn to them and say “Good luck. Have fun. I can’t wait to watch you.”

Step 2: Let your child out of the car and say goodbye
Make sure your child has all of their necessary equipment, and then reassure them you will watch every move they make from a controlled, semi-isolated locale.

Step 3: Find your nearest sports bar, bowling alley, Best Buy, basically anywhere there’s a TV
Find a way to live remote your child’s game to wherever you are in a controlled, semi-isolated locale.

Step 4: Make sure no other parents from your child’s team or the opposing team your child’s team is playing are within earshot
Because, let’s be real, 80 percent of youth sports parents are completely incapable of shutting their mouth while the action unfolds.

Step 5: Have a pen and notepad in front of you
Anytime you find a reason to criticize your child’s team’s coach or fellow players, write down your thoughts. Be specific about how you would do things differently.

Step 6: Drop your notes into the suggestion box that is labeled “Let your voice be heard!”
Hint: Just like at the office, the suggestion box is used merely to make you feel like you’re heard. Don’t expect anyone to actually read your rants.

Step 7: Yell out as loudly as you can all of the things your son or daughter should be doing better
Really, don’t hold back. The louder you yell, the better they’ll do, because…remember…they can’t hear you as they’re are having fun with their friends in an entirely separate location while you are having a self-induced aneurysm.

Step 8: Stop, look around, and realize that no one is watching your celebration dances, listening to your cowbells, or impressed by your overwhelming desire to reprimand officials
Take the time to reevaluate your life’s goals.

Step 9: Try to gain some perspective about the age group you are watching
Use the moments you had previously spent making everything a little too much about you to think of ways to make everything a lot more about your child.

Step 10: Pick up your child and repeat Step 1
Turn to your child and say “I loved watching you. I hope you had fun.”

I can hear the naysayers now. “But, Heidi, what if my…errr…my child’s team loses?! I’m not going to sugar coat things and pat them on the back pretending like everything’s ok.”

In response to that very real concern, I would counter, “It IS ok. Life is one big game, is it not? Those who are most successful learn to win AND lose with dignity and composure. And, in the end, the most fulfilled never lose sight of the fact that every swing, stride, pass, catch, stroke, backhand, and shot we take is a real blessing. Nothing is guaranteed. It can all be taken away from us in a heartbeat.”

Again, I am writing this post as much for me as for others.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Consider this my first mobile post published on Maternal Media. I’m reporting live from a sports field in middle America, but I imagine this same scene is unfolding across the country.

Sunday youth football league.

Here are a few top-of-mind reminders for everyone out there who knows and loves youth athletes.

1. Some of these kids will leave their sports careers behind by the time they exit grade school. If you, as a parent or coach, could predetermine whether or not a kid’s love of the game would end this year/this game/this play, would you behave any differently?

2. Yes, your job is to teach kids the game. But the truly great mentors teach kids so much more about sports that can be applied off the field.

3. It feels AMAZING when your kid makes the big play. Big plays come and go. Character continues on. So celebrate the little things – helping an opposing player up, constantly hustling, being a leader when times are tough – as much as the big, obvious accomplishments.

4. Don’t let a game make or break your mood. How you react to wins and losses is how your kid will react to triumphs and adversities throughout their formative years.

5. Don’t let a referee’s action or inaction be the excuse for flipping your sh*t. Do you have a clue as to what those guys get paid? Trust me, they don’t take on this role for the money or prestige. They are human and, as such, will make mistakes.

6. No matter what mom or dad yells from the sidelines, kids will only play as hard as their hearts are into it. No amount of yelling or chest thumping will motivate them. Quite the contrary, your huge smile and a simple thumbs up will mean more to him than you know…because…amazingly…

7. Your kid only wants to make you and his coach happy. While you worry about mortgage payments and getting through your work week, your son’s list of priorities is much simpler…but no less important.

8. When the last whistle is blown, hug your child and tell him how extremely proud you are of his effort. Do this no matter if he scores the game-winning touchdown or does something that costs his team the game. Believe me, he knows if he screwed up. You don’t need to belabor the point.

9. If your child looks like he’s not having any fun, remind him that life is more than touchdowns and tackles. If your child looks like he’s having a blast, never forget to remind him to be thankful for this special time in his life.

10. Watch the movie Rudy. Keep perspective.

Written by Heidi Woodard