Case Study #3
This family has found the sweet spot. They have managed to combine their lifestyle, their passions, and their sports for a well-rounded and balanced approach to life and youth sports. Miller and Mason play several sports that are all complementary and help improve and enhance their skills and performance collectively. But the best part, this family does a lot of these sports all together. Here is their story as told by their mom, Sherry.
1. What sports did you and your husband play?
I played absolutely NO sports and my husband ran track in high school. But we have active lifestyles and include them in all of our activities. Mountain biking, hiking, surfing, sailing, tennis, etc. … and I used to surf a lot, up until I was 5 months pregnant with both of them 🙂 We both play USTA tennis as well and the boys will come out and watch us “compete” sometimes. It’s kind of fun that the whole family can come out and cheer each other on!
2. What age and what sports do your boys play and how much time do they spend doing them each week?
Miller (12): water polo (club/12-hours per week), surf team (middle school 8-hours per week), snowboarding club (school 1-2 times per month in winter), skateboard (recreational 3-hours week), Junior Lifeguard (summer only 30-hours/week), prone paddle board (occasional),
Mason (11): water polo (club 12-hours per week), *surf (3-hours per week), *snowboard (1-2 times per month in winter), skateboard (recreational 3-hours per week), Junior Lifeguard (summer activity 30 hours per week), prone paddle board (occasional)
*Surf and Snowboard teams are both offered in middle school. Mason plans to do these next year as well!
3. What are their sports’ goals?
Their main goals are to work hard and let their abilities and determination take them as far as they can go. They don’t limit themselves. At 11 and 12 we focus more on high school than anything else. As our older one has grown his goals have matured along with his age. He has started to think more about his desire to play polo in college and how he is going to get there. We try not to stress them out about the future while they are so young. We want them to have the same passion they have now by the time they get to high school/college.
4. How do you help them achieve their goals?
When they show an interest or passion in something we try to find opportunities for them to explore it further. For example, Miller’s middle school didn’t have a surf team, so I reached out to some friends and found a way to get him on a neighboring school’s surf team. Luckily, our school has a snowboard club so we made sure to utilize that, as well as many trips up to the mountains with family and friends. They started showing an interest in skating so we put a ramp in our backyard. When we see a spark, we try to help ignite it into something bigger!
5. How do you maintain balance in their lives?
We are a super active family. I think the balance comes from doing activities you love. You don’t feel quite so overwhelmed when you are participating in activities that inspire you and make you feel good. As long as their school work is done, and they are doing well, we let them participate in what they like. Although, we stick to one team sport at a time. When a whole team is depending on you, you don’t get to just decide not to show up. The team sport takes priority over most of their other, individual sports.
6. What is your overall philosophy with their sports?
Work hard, do your best, be there for your team. We are in this for them to learn important life lessons that transcend sports: how to be a team player, be responsible, have an active and healthy lifestyle, perseverance, grit. We want them to be surrounded by healthy, like minded friends and families so that they are less likely to get themselves into trouble as they get older.
7. What are some of your secret weapons or unique ways you have found to help the kids either excel or stay balanced?
Making sure that their desires are organic and come from within them and aren’t a result of our own desires for them.
Waiting to talk with them about their performance until they bring it up and offering suggestions when the time is right and they are emotionally open to it.
Stressing the positive. Not focusing on the negative. We discuss the downs of the day but try to do it in a positive and reflective way.
Empowering them by having them be their own advocates. We encourage the kids to talk to their coaches if they need to. We want them to feel like they are in control of their destiny. Our children finding the power in their voice is so important. If they want something they need to go and get it.
Finding a club that is the right fit for them. My boys really excel when there is discipline and organization. For some kids the social aspect may be a motivating factor initially, so a club that is less intense might be more beneficial while they are young. You just have to know your kid!
8. What’s the most difficult thing about raising two athletes in today’s super competitive sports world?
There is too much focus on immediate success. Everybody wants their kids to be the best NOW. You have to check yourself a lot and remember that our kids are changing and growing every day, mentally and physically. There are going to be hills and valleys. The valleys don’t define who they are. The gift is in learning how to get yourselves out of the valleys and to focus on the hills.
For instance, right now my older son has moved up to the 14U team in water polo. He is only 12 and playing against kids who are about to be 15. At this age, the boys are developing at such different times. Some are huge and are almost done growing and some, like my son haven’t hit their growth spurts yet. Yesterday was the first time I really saw him discouraged. He went from being able to take control of most situations in the pool to having to battle against kids twice his size. We talked about how the battling he is doing now is going to help him when he gets bigger and stronger. He has to figure out how to utilize the strengths he does have (swimming fast, thinking smart, making his size an asset) now while he’s waiting to grow.
Everyone wants their kids to be superstars. We all find ourselves thinking this at one point or another. A very tiny percentage of youth athletes go on to make it their life’s profession. You have to have a clear head about what your goal as a parent is. It’s not to raise sports stars. It’s to raise healthy, motivated people. Whether that translates into success in athletics or success in business, it is the most important goal.
My big saying around our house is “10/90.” Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you choose to react to it.
9. What drives you most crazy about youth sports and what do you do to help make it better?
Too much focus on the end game and not enough focus on the journey. People get anxious if their athlete’s team isn’t winning. I try to remind people that through adversity comes strength and lessons of perseverance.
I really wish people would let the coaches coach. We have such respect for the kids’ coaches.
10. What is your ultimate dream or desire for them and/or your family in regards to their sports?
That they take it as far as they want to go. That they have learned perseverance, motivation, teamwork, grit and a healthy lifestyle that translates into a happy, fulfilling future for them as adults and members of our community. That their success in sports doesn’t define their value in this world. It is but one part of the whole picture.