The time for stopping sports will be different for every athlete. Some may quit after one season, when they are still small, some after middle school, some mid-season, some after high school, and some may make it all the way to college. And then it ends.
As sport parents, it is easy for youth sports to become the focus of our world too. I think that’s natural and of course it is important for parents to be involved in their kids’ lives.
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I would suggest that there is a price to pay for this engagement with our children. That price is the pain we feel when we reach The End of sports parenting–whether our kids quit when they are small or if they make it all the way through.
If you’ve loved watching your kids play as much as I do, you will feel like something has been ripped away from you. You may feel a certain sense of emptiness. What will I do with my time now?
What’s a parent to do?
When your kid quits a sport you’ve loved watching, you may experience feelings akin to grief.
For me, it’s the knowledge that, after 20 years of being a SPORTS MOM, I will no longer be one. (That hasn’t quite happened yet; I still have two playing in college, but it is coming!)
So how does a parent who’s loved being a sports parent deal with the grief that their child is done with sports?
- Let yourself be grieve. Maybe you’ll shed your tears in some quiet place when you are alone, but whatever you do, don’t deny the sadness. The longer you’ve been a sports parent, the harder it will be. Being a sports parent is consuming. It’s tough to give that up.
- There’s more to life than sports. Remember how you always told your kids that? Well, now it’s time to tell yourself. If your child has grown and learned from his sports experience–whether it was one year or 15 years long–then youth sports has been a valuable ally to you as a parent. But it does not define who your child is as a person and being a sports parent should not define who you are as a person.
- Find something else to fill the time. Be intentional about filling up the emptiness you may feel when you are no longer sitting at games, waiting after practices, volunteering in the snack bar. Enjoy the extra time connecting with your kids, find a new hobby, a new business challenge, or go back to school.
- Rejoice! Cherish the memories (if you’re not recording them and saving momentos, start Now!), and celebrate who your children have become through youth sports. For many of you whose kids are still small and have quit, there are still life lessons that your kiddo hopefully picked up from his experience. You may be surprised at how well he will remember those when he is older. If your kid is older, then it’s time to stand back and see them for who they have become, not just for the sport they played. And be grateful for how sports contributed to their maturation.
Since my two youngest are college athletes in a different state, I don’t see them play much; my “sports parent” label is being slowly and painfully removed. Yes, I’ve cried a few tears, but I can honestly say that I am celebrating who they have become through their sports experiences and I know that I will survive just fine without my label.
I guess I can hang on until the grandkids come along and start playing.
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