Being the mother of an athlete is a challenging yet rewarding role. So momsTEAM designated May as Sports Moms Month and has been celebrating by asking some of our favorite sports moms to share their wisdom by responding to a series of questions.
We heard from a fascinating range of sports moms, from a mom of an Olympic athlete to moms who were themselves Olympic athletes, from a moms of former minor league baseball players and NCAA Division 1 basketball players to a Minnesota hockey mom and author, from a sports nutritionist to an award-winning health and safety reporter.
Today, on the last day of May, we hear from former NCAA softball great, longtime softball coach and sports mom of three, Jenny Dalton-Hill.
MomsTEAM: Were you an athlete and what sports did you play as a youth (under 19)?
Dalton-Hill: I started playing sports when I was 4 participating in gymnastics. Soccer and basketball were next at about age 6. Softball started at 8. I played 5 sports in high school: volleyball, basketball, softball, track, and badminton. I attended the University of Arizona on a softball scholarship.
MomsTEAM: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a sports mom?
Dalton-Hill: I love watching my kids overcome failure and believe in the aspect of TEAM. Sports is not easy and the lessons learned on the court or field are difficult to be taught in the home.
MomsTEAM: What lesson has your sports active child taught you?
Dalton-Hill: I have learned that it is more important to listen to the struggles they are having than try to fix everything. My kids are fully capable of figuring out the solutions to their issues -- I just have to give them the chance and have the patience to allow them to figure it out. Life lessons like that need to be learned while I provide them a safe place when problems seem overwhelming for them.
MomsTEAM: What is the most important lesson your child is learning from his/her sport?
Dalton-Hill: My children are learning that they can do hard things. Sport is based on tasks that include many failures, many of which seem unconquerable. The joy they experience overcoming obstacles on their own is sweet.
MomsTEAM: If you could "flip a switch" and change one thing about the culture of youth sports what would it be?
Dalton-Hill: I would love to change the attitude of entitlement that the youth of today possess. It is hard to watch kids expect to have sunglasses, gloves, racquets, bags, clothes, shoes, cleats, without having to work for them or appreciate their value. Sport should be approached with respect: Respect for coaches, parents, equipment, and the game.
MomsTEAM: Brag a little-what have you done to make sports better for kids? Please share
Dalton-Hill: I believe that I am a different kind of coach. I do not belittle my players. I take the time to communicate my expectations with preseason meetings laying out expectations, by conducting post-season exit interviews in which off-season goals are set, and by taking time to listen whenever a player has the need to discuss team issues. The difference between a good coach and a great coach is the ability to communicate effectively whether it is in reference to mechanics of the game or off the field expectations. I was an assistant coach for a woman one time who told me that motivating players was not her job. I beg to differ. A coach has the ability to shape lives, change futures, encourage change, and foster self-esteem. It takes a village; but I want to make sure it's a village that I would want to live in too.
Jenny Dalton-Hill is a mother of three and one of the most decorated NCAA Division 1 softball players in history, winning Player of the Year, College World Series MVP and three national championships while playing for the University of Arizona, where she was a three-time All-American second baseman and two-time Academic All-American and set numerous NCAA single season and career hitting records. Jenny is currently head softball coach for a high school in Lexington, Kentucky, and, after coming back in 2010 from a 13-year layoff to win a bronze medal for Team USA at the Women's Baseball World Cup in Venezuela, has joined the coaching staff of the USA Baseball Women's National Team and become a member of USA Board of Directors. She is also a sports broadcaster, working as a color analyst for radio and television broadcasts of NCAA Division 1 softball games for the IMG College Sports Networks.