Women, particularly the mothers who volunteer, are often the backbone of what makes a youth sports team work smoothly. Here's some advice to sports moms from a sports mom: o help make your child's sports experience more enjoyable, as well as your own, remember:
1. Turn off the ‘Commander Mode'
In general, moms:
- make great team administrators/moms
- are good at creating a warm, hospitable team environment (making sure each player gets a snack or making a new family feel welcome, etc.) and
- are good at nurturing, teaching and encouraging children to do their best.
Unfortunately, as with dads, when it comes to their own child's sports team, a mom's greatest strengths can become weaknesses that can cause problems for her child and his/her coach.
Moms are used to multi-tasking and taking control to get their long ‘to-do list' completed. We can often get into the agenda mode so much so that it might be difficult for some of us to turn off the "Commander Mode" attitude.
The best thing a multi-tasking sports mom can do to support her child in youth sports is:
- To allow the coaches to take charge of all aspects of practice and games.
- Not to hover around the bench area distracting kids with well meaning advice,
- Not to bring snacks and drinks outside of scheduled breaks.
- Sit in the stands clapping, rather than tapping their child on the shoulder every five minutes.
2. Don't "baby"
God gave women big, soft hearts for a reason. Kids need nurturing to feel safe in the world. Kids are usually (but not always) in good hands when coaches are running the show.
- Kids, especially boys, do not need or want their mom babying them during a game or after the game.
- They also do not want their mom running out on the field if they get hurt. Wait for the coach to call you to the bench before approaching your child.
- Express your faith in your child's abilities by letting him/her stand on his/her own. Believe it or not, boys get embarrassed if their mom's baby them in front of their teammates.
- Save the hugs for home. They won't have a problem with that!
3. Don't gossip, especially about the coach
If you get enough people together, chances are that there will be at least one social butterfly in the bunch. Friendly, inviting personalities make everyone feel welcome, and they keep everyone in the communication loop. Often, the social butterfly ends up being the Team Mom. If there is a question, the Team Mom or other parents discuss issues with each other instead of the coach. Usually this is not a problem, but it is important to understand that this scenario can lead to problems when the talk is about the coach.
So, let's get this subject out in the open now! A common error to be aware of and avoid is a tendency to gossip. Even though gossiping is most often associated with women, men are often guilty of gossiping too, even if it takes a different form. A man's gossip usually starts out as "game analysis" and soon morphs into critiquing play calling, substitutions, playing time or the way the coach runs practices. Such critiquing can create a judgmental negativity that is really no better than gossip.
Gossip (opinion stated as fact) sours what should be a fun and encouraging atmosphere. At the extreme, gossip can spread negativity like a fire out of control. Usually, the gossip centers on the coach, but it can also be about other kids or other parents. Stay away from this form of communication. Remember, youth sports should be child- not adult-centered. Gossiping is a "parent" centered activity that harmfully erodes the entire experience for the kids.
4. Encourage, don't nag
Every kid loves to hear the cheers from the crowd. To hear the words, "good job" and "you can do it" is music to kids' ears. The music can turn into noise with a few ill placed words. Here is an example of an encouraging statement: "You can do it, way to go!" A kid can hear that statement fifteen times in one game and not be bothered.
But encouragement can easily turn into nagging. Consider these statements:
- "Hold your bat straight"
- "Stay between your man and the basket"
- "Pass it!"
5. Become a coach
All too often, mothers end up accepting the traditional roles that the youth sports culture still assigns them as team administrators, concession stand workers, and fans.
If you want to really make a difference in youth sports, take a leadership role by coaching a team, especially a girls team.
- Women are the best one's to teach girls how to be strong and able.
- Girls need women role models in all areas of life. Athletics is one of those areas.
- Sport are a great place for girls to learn they can do anything they set their minds to do. Success in sports early in life can give a girl the confidence she needs to make better decisions later in life regarding friends, boyfriends and career. Who better to guide and develop these skills than a Mom?
Debbie Lantz is a veteran single sports mom with a passion for empowering women to make a difference in youth sports. To find out more ways moms can make a difference, check out her book, I Just Want To Play, which can be ordered on her website by clicking here.Updated April 21, 2011