How To Parent Kids Playing Youth Club Sports With Grace
By Guest Contributor Leslie Slovak
As our daughter’s club volleyball career comes to an end, I wanted to share some thoughts and advice. To all the new club parents out there, I hope this is helpful!
You will say this many times over the years: “We can’t, I am sorry. Our daughter has a tournament.” You will miss out on a lot of things, but you will also have some great quality time with your kid, her team and other parents. If you are as fortunate as we have been, many of these teammates, parents, and coaches are some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. You will spend hours with them in gyms and convention centers, airports, and team dinners. Team dinners are great, but get ready for a two- to three-hour commitment! Veteran parents, I know you agree! Give the waiter your daughter’s jersey number when ordering. Trust me. It works and helps save time when doing separate checks.
When your daughter gets a little older, she will probably start staying in a room with just players when you go to out-of-town tournaments. Yes, that is right, your baby girl and three other teenagers. It may take a while at first to get used to this, but trust me, it is awesome. Cut the cord, let her bond with her team, set her own wake-up calls, get to the lobby and/or gym with her team and you just show up at the court and watch!
Yes, coaches take cell phones sometimes. Love it. Yes, the girls really do survive, and if they need you or you need them, there are phones in the hotel room. The break from social media is great for them, not to mention they engage in real conversations!
The club tryout process has changed over the years. One thing that has not changed is that for most kids and families, it is stressful. For some, it is a done deal and you will pretty much know your daughter has a spot on the team without actually trying out. Kids may want to stay with the same team and club, but that is not always what happens. For many different reasons, loyalty is not always there. This is a journey, and there will be highs and lows. I can honestly say that I am glad our daughter experienced some lows. This is life. I did not want her to be 19 years old before something didn’t go exactly like she wanted. I promise you it is good for kids to fight through adversity, not always be a starter, and fight their own battles. Remind her in the tough times that you are her biggest fan, but also encourage her to communicate with her coach. Mom and dad can’t go through life always trying to fix everything.
After a game, only talk volleyball if she wants to. Let her vent if she wants. Many times, she really doesn’t want to talk about the game. Respect that.
Do not be a crazy parent! There are already too many out there. We don’t need more. It is a game; these are kids. Things will not always seem fair to you, and there will be some hard times. Encourage your daughter to keep working hard, keep fighting. You will not always agree with her coaches, and that is OK. There is a reason for the decisions they make.
Officials are human, and they are going to miss calls. No need to yell at them. Most of them wear earplugs anyway! When kids are calling lines, they are going to miss a touch or call a ball out that is in. Let it go. They are kids! You would not want someone yelling at your daughter. Remember, don’t be a crazy parent!
If I owned a club, I would seriously consider psychiatric evaluations on parents before selecting kids to play for my teams. I would give the parents and their daughter shirts that are color-coded during tryouts. Green for logical, normal, supportive parents. Yellow for proceed with caution, shows some signs of crazy. Red, don’t even think about it, a special kind of crazy that can ruin a season for all involved.
Every team has a parent that in one second can pull up the tournament schedule, tell you what pool you are in, what time you play, and on which court. Either be this parent or find this parent. He or she will also be able to explain the tiebreaker, give you every possible crossover scenario, and will know which teams have bids already at each qualifier.
Best convention center: Boston. Hardest qualifier to get to and get home from without feeling like you miss a week of work and school: Spokane.
To all of you just beginning this journey, I hope you make as many wonderful memories as we have. Best of luck! To the wonderful friends, teammates, and coaches who have been a part of this journey, thank you. To our daughter, I have loved watching you play!