One Mom Shares Her Truth About Being A Sports Parent
by Stephanie Knorowski
One Mom Shares Her Truth About Being A Sports Parent. Last weekend my husband and I did a Spring cleaning. We purged our home of old furniture, toys, and stuff we had collected over the years.
It was going well until I got to the bedroom/trophy room. Ten years worth of my kids’ sports memories stuffed into a 75-square-foot space. I could barely get inside the room because it was so jam-packed.
It had been over a year since our family walked away from BMX racing, and it was time to let go, literally and figuratively.
I Was Overwhelmed By Sadness
I contacted the track operator at our local BMX track to see if she could recycle my kids’ old trophies, and she was happy to take all of them. My boys held onto a few that held special meaning, and we packed our cars with the rest. I could not wait to get rid of them. We no longer needed those moments of glory that had once been the driving force behind nearly every free second of our family’s time. And I have come to realize that their true value is something that can’t be thrown away.
We drove to the back of the lot and unloaded our trophies as quickly as possible. My husband took a picture of them piled up by the fence and hugged me. Each award represented a moment, a memory, a new place, and countless hours of work, and now we were letting it all go. What did it all mean? What was it all for?
In the end, there were some valuable lessons my boys learned about hard work, perseverance, sportsmanship, and the highs and lows of winning and losing. I often say that I do not miss it, but sadness overwhelmed me as I drove away, and I cried the whole way home. It was a good cry. It was the closure I needed to move on.
How Did We Get Here?
BMX ended last year when my older son, Jack, broke his arm in a middle school wrestling match. Ironically, he wanted to try out wrestling to do something different, but BMX was his primary sport.
Kids are often injured in action sports like BMX, and we knew it was inevitable. But seeing my child in so much pain, even though it wasn’t from BMX, changed my perspective on the sport. That night in the hospital, I thought, “We can’t keep doing this.” And the truth was that we were all burnt out anyways. Traveling to BMX nationals was expensive. The training was intense and consumed our lives. We were always on the road driving somewhere, to another state or another city, and the novelty had worn off years ago. It was becoming a life we could not keep up with, and I always pushed my kids to train harder and practice more, “What is the goal of all of this?” my husband would ask me. At a certain point, I could not answer that question anymore. I did not know. The point was for them to get better and win more races. But why? Why was that so important to me when it was not that important to my kids?
We had all become worn out and exhausted. We would go to work and school, come home, make dinner, eat, and head to the track or do some other form of bike riding almost daily. We sacrificed our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being for this sport for many years but did not know how to stop. The highs and lows of BMX are so addictive it’s hard to think rationally when you are in the middle of all the action.
Lying awake in the hospital room with Jack, I knew I could not go back. Walking away from it all was the best decision for our family. It wasn’t easy at first, and it took serious self-reflection. But once I came out on the other side, I had some important realizations about my experiences to share.
It Was About Me, Not Them
This is what I have learned:
1. I wanted it more than my kid did
I realized that I had become so wrapped up in the competition I lost sight of what was important in life. I was putting my kids’ success in BMX before their happiness and well-being. My youngest son, who was ten then, never really had a choice in whether he raced. His brother did it, so he did it. He happened to be a great racer, so I always pushed him to do better. I ignored his signs of burnout for years because I didn’t want him to quit. I enjoyed the attention he would get from winning races and earning national rankings. I enjoyed the compliments and accolades. It made me feel like a good Mom. But the bottom line was that he wasn’t happy. He just wanted to be a kid and have fun. He didn’t care if he won or lost. He was more interested in playing in the dirt with his friends than where he placed in the race.
2. Balance is critical
I used to massively overschedule my kids, and allowing them to have nothing to do some days now can still be challenging, but I know it is crucial. I also watch what I say to them before and after their games or races. I only encourage and hold back on saying anything critical, even if I am thinking it. I used to spend way too much time talking to my kids about their sports performance, which negatively impacted them and strained our relationship. My goal now is NOT to make them better at their sport. I want them to keep playing and enjoying sports longer.
3. Living vicariously through my kids’ sporting experiences doesn’t work
I realize now that much of my anxiety and craziness over my kids’ sports careers stems from my lack of involvement in sports as a child. I was the stereotypical parent that was living through their kids’ accomplishments. I always felt insecure about my athletic abilities since I rarely played sports as a kid. When I did play, I felt like all the girls were better than me. I know this wasn’t right, and I have since found the activities and sports I enjoy that fill me up, and I have stopped trying to live through theirs.
Where I Am Today
This is a process, I wrote an article a few years ago for Ilovetowatchyouplay, I was changing a lot about my parenting and thought I had it all figured out. Little did I know, that was just phase one. I I still have so much lot to learn. My kids are involved in sports today, different sports, basketball, and mountain biking. But I have done a complete turn around in my parenting. My kids will only be with me for a short time, and I want to make these years together as enjoyable as possible. I know I have made mistakes as a sports parent and will make more mistakes as time goes on. That is life, and I will never be perfect. Ultimately, I want my kids to know that I love them for who they are and not because of what they do.
Looking back, I do not regret everything, I am grateful for many of the experiences that BMX gave us. We have all grown from it. We learned that we could put our all into something, but we do not have to be held prisoner to a life that does not fulfill us. If an experience no longer serves us or our kids well, we can walk away at any time and live the life we want.
Stephanie Knorowski is a mom of two boys, ages 14 and 11, and has been a high school English teacher for 20 years. She is a co-sponsor of the high school weightlifting club.