No rest for the weary
Youth sports have become extremely time consuming, placing extraordinary demands on the organizational abilities of parents, especially if they work outside the home.
Surveys show that fully nine out of ten parents attend their children’s games or performances once or more a week; six out of ten shuttle their children to and from games and practices three or more times a week; practices and games consume, on average, between 6 to 16 hours per week of a parent’s time.
Such time demands place an enormous strain on the ability of sports parents, particularly moms, to multi-task, with the role of sports parent described in one recent newspaper article as akin to “juggling the roles of air-traffic controller, pilot and flight crew all at once.” For the millions of mothers who take on the added responsibilities of “team mom” these time, money and logistical challenges become even more daunting.
At no other time since the dawn of civilization have parents needed to choreograph their lives to the split second like the way they do today. We try to keep track of our busy lives, and those of our kids, by any and all means possible: Desk calendars, smart-phones, Blackberries, 16 by 20 wall calendars, sticky notes, three-ring binders, and computers. Just getting our kids to all their activities can be exhausting to think about, unless you learn how to organize, prioritize and plan ahead.
Wearing many hats
When you stop to think about it, it's amazing how many different hats a youth sports mom wears:
- Short order cook/nutritionist
- Athletic trainer
- Personal shopper
- Child advocate
- Child psychologist
- Pediatrician, nurse, physical therapist
- Chief Financial Officer
- Chief Operating Officer
- Politician; and
- Talent scout
You have to pick a sport and a program best suited to your child, set realistic expectations about what your child can achieve through sports, be there for your child in good times and bad, model good sportsmanship, and use the youth sports experience to teach life skills, lessons and values that will help your child grow up into a self-confident, independent, well-adjusted adult while avoiding the trap too many parents fall into of becoming an over-involved, out-of control parent.
As a parent of a child participating in sports you need to be prepared and willing to adjust the family schedule to meet the needs of your child's athletic schedule. You need to be prepared to give up some of your Saturdays and Sundays, and expect that, as a child gets older and moves up the competitive ladder in his or her sport, even three-day holiday weekends (especially three day weekends), and school vacations may end up getting swallowed up by tournaments, clinics, private lessons etc.
The problem is, of course, more challenging for families with two or more children, each playing a different sport, in a different league, on a different day, at a different time and place. Parents with several children often find that taking their children to lessons or practices is a full-time job. Single or divorced parents have an even bigger challenge.