How One Mom Broke The Cycle Of Crazy Youth Sports Parenting
If there was a contest for which sport has the craziest parents, BMX racing would win!
When you go to a national BMX race you will witness the following: Parents screaming “PEDAL” as they watch their five-year-old barely make it around the track; parents smacking their kids’ helmets, saying “why didn’t you try?”; parents yelling obscenities at other parents in a jealous fit of rage; parents yelling at officials; parents celebrating openly that their kid beat another kid … and for what? What is all of this craziness for? It’s just a kids’ bike race, right? But it’s not. This is LIFE. The BMX life.
Living like a fiend from one race to the next, just chasing the feeling of glory when your kid gets a win. This has been my family’s reality ever since my boys started racing, both at the age of 3. It has been a rollercoaster of a ride over the years, but at the brink of heading into our eighth year in the sport, I knew deep in my gut that I was overly obsessed with my kids’ sport and that needed to change.
On New Year’s Eve of 2019, I had a moment of catharsis. I realized that I desperately wanted to be different. I had recently signed up to be an assistant coach on my boys’ track and field team for the upcoming season and if I wanted to be a good coach, I needed to drastically alter my perspective on my own kids’ sports performance. My eight-year-old’s voice was ringing in my ears saying, “Will you be mad at me if I don’t do well?” I knew I had done some damage that I couldn’t take back.
All I could think was, “I need to chill out. There has to be a better way to do this.” So, I began to research “how to be a better sports parent” and I began to read. I found I Love To Watch You Play and other websites like The Reformed Sports Parent and I read every article and interview I could read. It all started to make sense. This whole time, I had it all wrong. It’s not about me. It’s about them. Their wins, their loses, their ability, their practice, their racing … none of it had anything to do with me. I learned about having a growth mindset, focusing on the process, not pressuring them to do well, setting realistic goals, and not comparing their performance with another kid’s. I learned that setting a goal to beat another kid is not a healthy goal. I learned about the importance of fun and enjoyment when it comes to sports and not to lose sight of the reason they ride in the first place…because they love it.
At the next national race we planned on going to, I had one goal, and that was to CHILL. I even had to write a statement to myself on a sticky note which said, “My name is Stephanie Knorowski. I love my family. I am here to support my kids. I am not here to compare myself to others.” As I felt the butterflies in my chest starting to flutter before their race started, I would read that note to myself. Then an amazing thing happened. It worked. I was calmer. My kids’ attitudes were positive the whole weekend. There was no yelling. No tears. It’s funny how I never realized how my attitude had such an influence on them. I knew if I could be different at that race, I could do it at any race. Change is possible if you want it bad enough. At the end of the race my eight-year-old said, “This was a fun race! It’s not about what place you get, but how hard you try and how much fun you have.” Those are the words I want to hear him say at every race … not, “Are you mad at me?”