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Emily Cohen (Sports Parenting Blogger): Most Important Lesson Kids Learn in Sports Is Hard Work Pays Off

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Being the mother of an athlete is a challenging yet rewarding role. So MomsTEAM has designated May as Sports Moms Month and is celebrating by asking some of our favorite sports moms to share their wisdom by responding to a series of questions.

So far this month we have heard from a fascinating range of sports moms, from a mom of an Olympic athlete to moms who were themselves Olympic athletes, from a mom of two former minor league baseball players to a Minnesota hockey mom and author.

Today we hear from writer, MomsTEAM blogger and sports mom, Emily Cohen: Emily Cohen

MomsTEAM: Were you an athlete and what sports did you play as a youth (under 19)?

Cohen: I danced ballet and ice skated throughout elementary and middle school, but when I got to high school, I desperately wanted to be on the swim team with one of my closest friends. Unfortunately, my mom refused to drive me to the early morning practices, and it was well before "carpool" was a part of a sports parent's lexicon.  The fact that I could not participate in a sport as a child has driven the support I give my children's athletic endeavors and youth sports in general as an adult. 

MomsTEAM: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a sports mom?

Cohen: No question: watching my child smile while playing the sport he or she loves. When my son gets a stand-up double and I see him smile as he stands on second base, or when my daughter scores a goal and I see her laughing and smiling from under her soccer teammates' hugs, those are the best moments in life.

MomsTEAM: What lesson has your sports active child taught you?

Cohen: Especially as your kids get older, the ability to control the situation - playing time, position, etc. - decreases significantly. The best thing you, as a parent, can do is be quiet and let your child advocate for himself or herself in the manner he or she thinks is best. That may be verbally (asking the coach what she needs to do to get that starting spot) or it may be physically (training harder than anyone else on the team).

MomsTEAM: What is the most important lesson your child is learning from his/her sport?

Cohen: Hard work pays off. If you put in the time by participating in team practices (even the optional ones) and spend time honing your skills on your own, you will improve, the coaches will notice, and you will reach your goal.  But it's critical that the desire to improve be their goal, not mine. Cohen kids

MomsTEAM: If you could "flip a switch" and change one thing about the culture of youth sports what would it be?

Cohen: I would change the seriousness with which parents approach every youth sport and the "pushing" of youth athletes by parents. I never hear a parent say, "Oh, my son loves lacrosse, it's just his hobby, and that's fine with me."  Everyone is focused on having his or her child play whatever sport it is in college or in the pros. And the prevailing culture among parents seems to be that their child "needs to be pushed" athletically to succeed. Succeed in whose eyes? Why can't parents just let kids play for fun, for the love of the game?

MomsTEAM: What have you done to make sports better for kids? Please share.

Cohen: I think that if even one sports parent questions his or her actions after reading my blog posts about poor parent behavior, I'll have made sports better for kids. That is certainly my goal.


Emily Cohen is a freelance writer and blogger living in Berkeley, California. An avid tennis player, swimmer, and exerciser, Emily has a son who plays high school baseball and a daughter who plays Class I soccer and middle school volleyball.  She is team manager for her children's sports teams and has captained several adult tennis teams. You can follow Emily on Twitter at @emilygcohen or email her at emily@emily-writes.com.