“Hey, batter, batter, swing!”
Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Just stand there and swing the ball?
But the more you learn about baseball and softball, the more you realize that there is a lot more to hitting the ball than just swinging away. And if athletes don’t take time to learn the mechanics, they will be striking out more than hitting.
Sports parents do the same thing when they first enroll their children in sports. Just get out there and cheer for your kid, right? How hard can it be?
Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s harder than it looks.
If you’d like to be a sports parent that wants to help your child grow in character, here’s three tips that my softball coaching husband gives his athletes when they step up to bat. They might also help you from striking out as a sports parent.
Have a ritual to relax you
In sports, the mental game is huge. Half the battle is knowing how to not be tense in a game.
Most great athletes have a ritual that helps them focus. A tennis player may adjust racquet strings in between shots even though the strings don’t need adjusting. A football kicker may take a deep breath and stretch his neck side to side before the snap. A batter might swing a heavy bat. A softball hitter may tap the base.
Rituals remind us of what is important and provide a sense of stability and continuity in our lives. They also help us stay focused on our goals.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea for sports parents to have rituals to relax them and help them stay focused on what is important. Bring a water bottle, sit in the same location, chew on sunflower seeds. Say a prayer. Not superstitious rituals, but almost-unconscious, familiar habits that help us feel relaxed.
When we are relaxed, we are less likely to get uptight about bad calls, coaching issues, and our child’s performance.
Say yes, yes, yes
The Stanford softball coach tells his hitters to think, “yes, yes, yes.” As they watch the ball leave the pitcher’s hand, they should assume that every ball is a strike.
In life, that’s called assuming the best or thinking positive.
I’m not very good at thinking positive. I’m often too quick to think the worst and cloak my negativity with the excuse that “I’m being realistic.”
Have you ever dreaded going to your kid’s game because you expected the worst to happen, after the last game when things didn’t go well? How often are you quick to point out mistakes made by the team instead of the good stuff? Do you ever start a season with a negative opinion of the coach before you’ve given him a chance?
It’s time for sports parents to start saying yes, yes, yes and be positive-thinking examples for our kids. It could be contagious.
Be ready to adjust
Even as hitters are thinking yes, they are prepared to say no. In the 1.4 seconds it takes for the softball to travel from the pitcher’s hand to home plate, they must watch the ball until the last instant and be ready to not swing if it is a ball. That’s major mind adjustment.
In the same way that athletes learn to quickly adjust during a game, sports parents can also learn to adjust, because everything won’t always go the way you think it should.
Maybe the coach asked your child to play a new position this year, when you were counting on the old one. Perhaps your kid is not getting the playing time you were hoping for. Or at the last minute, your child decides they don’t want to play the sport you love to watch them play.
One of our parenting jobs job is learning to adjust to the curve balls of life, and at the same time helping our kids grow stronger as they adjust.
Sports provides an excellent opportunity for our kids and us to grow in character. And when your child ends the season victorious in character, you will know that you not only avoided striking out, you got yourself a sports parenting home run!