Are We Doing Too Much For Our Athletes?
Are We Doing Too Much For Our Athletes? It’s a weekday at 7:05 am, and I’m deep into my writing. I’ve got a self-imposed deadline I’m trying to hit looming in an hour. I hear the door fly open, and I think, “Don’t do it, don’t do it.” But I literally can’t stop myself. I hit “save all’ on my writing and scurry to the kitchen to make her a post-workout breakfast, a veggie omelet, and a side of fruit. I rationalize that it will not only help her body recover but will give her energy for the next 15 hours of school, practice, and homework. Since I’m in the kitchen anyways, I make a PBandJ for my youngest, who never wants to eat at school, so that she can eat it on the way to volleyball practice at 3:15 since I know she will be starving. Oh, I also fill their water bottles (hydration soo important).
My kids are 20, 17, and 15. I know this is not good for them.
The other day Sarah, my 17-year-old daughter’s friend, was over, and as I passed through the living room, I mentioned something to my kid about me needing to finish her financial forms for college. Sarah looks up and says, “Oh, The FAFSA?”. Why yes, Sarah, how do you even know that name? And for those that don’t have college-age kids yet, it’s a form EVERY single parent will need to fill out EVERY year to qualify for any financial aid, and it involves taxes and income and all this yucky stuff that takes me forever to figure out each year, and I guarantee you none of my kids could even spell it or say it. Well, it turns out Sarah’s parents make her do it by herself as well as all her college applications. I was literally dumbfounded. Jaw to the floor. How is that even possible? I am setting the bar way too low for my kids. Oh, Sarah is also a three-sport athlete at high school and plays club volleyball.
I’ve brought this up now to several of my friends, and we all seem to get caught up in the same predicament or the same story we are telling ourselves. The kids are trying to do so much in school and with their academics, and some even have additional time-consuming activities like drama or playing musical instruments. They literally have no time. But instead of limiting their activities and setting up realistic expectations of what one can do in a week, we pick up the slack where we can in order to make it all possible. We also tend to give them a pass on chores, community service, or even sitting at the dinner table with the family because they have SO much homework to do still. Some of my friends admitted they still do their kids’ laundry or bring lunches to school and snacks after school or in between practices – and these kids drive. And these are busy, working moms with plenty of other areas of their lives that need tending. Today, I know my daughter won’t have much time between school practice and club practice, so I run to the gas station and fill her empty truck with gas so she can eat dinner. All these things make me feel useful and supportive as they become more independent in other ways and want/need less from us. They are busy girls with busy lives, and I can do it, so I do. It seems alright, but is it?
No, not really.
Besides the obvious issue of overscheduling our kids to the point that they can’t fit anything else in, and even if it’s their choice and desires, we aren’t stopping them. But then there is the other problem; we are robbing them of so many valuable experiences and failures by always being there to pick up the slack and make it easier. We are creating children that are ill-equipped to handle even the most mundane issues that arise for them. For example, my friend’s daughter texted her mom in the middle of the night from college, asking if she should drop a class or not, in total panic.
Over-indexing on helping our kids because they are just SO DAMN BUSY comes from a good place and well-intentioned parents. But what might seem helpful in the short term is really going to be a huge problem in the long run. When they get to college or are on their own, will they even remember to eat, or will they just literally melt away to nothing? Kidding here, but in the first few years of freedom, they will no doubt have a lot of firsts and failures. These are lessons they should have been learning all along when the stakes were lower, and they were still under our roofs, ‘practicing’ for real life.
It’s natural for us to want the best for our kids. But sometimes, in our eagerness to give them what we think they need and help them succeed, we are doing more harm than good. Kids who are overly reliant on parents for daily tasks and decision-making may lack the problem-solving skills necessary to navigate life’s obstacles. They may also struggle when asked to make decisions independently or be more vulnerable to making poor choices later in life. Children need to learn how to fail and make mistakes so they can learn to problem solve on their own as well as gain the vital internal knowledge that they will survive when they fail or screw up. This, in turn, makes them much less fearful to try new things, as failure shouldn’t be a foreign term that we’ve kept them far away from. It’s part of life, and they need to learn to pick themselves up and dust off their bootstraps without feeling like they’ve let their parents down or that they are inherent ‘failures.’ This is an important part of growing up and developing self-confidence and resilience.
Overparenting can also take the joy out of parenting. A friend confided that she often feels taken advantage of and underappreciated for all of her running around, “It almost seems like the more we do, the less they appreciate us.” It’s important to remember that parenting is not an exact science, and sometimes they need our help, and sometimes they don’t. But in general, allowing them to figure things out for themselves will be very beneficial to their growth. As parents, we can offer guidance and support but not take over. This is the best way to foster independence in our children and allow them to grow into the confident individuals they are meant to be.
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Asia Mape is a 4-time Emmy Award-winning sports journalist and founder of Ilovetowatchyouplay.com, a digital platform that has served millions of parents and coaches as a guide and resource for raising healthy, happy, and successful athletes. Ilovetowatchyouplay.com has been featured in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Today Show, Bleacher Report, Inc., NFL.com, and Sports Illustrated.
The mother of three daughters who play or played sports, and a former division 1 basketball player, Asia has dedicated the greater part of the last 14 years to her daughters’ various activities, a combination of club soccer, basketball, field hockey, volleyball, and water polo. She has schlepped her kids to some 7-8 practices a week and attended tournaments or games most weekends. Most of the time, she has loved it, but along the way, she often wondered whether there wasn’t a better way. This question was the genesis of I Love To Watch You Play. Linktree