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Parenting During Sports Practices

My girl was four years old, and it was her first spring season of soccer. She had been watching her older sister play for a year, and so she was excited to now show off her own skills on the sports field.

But When We Arrived…

At least she said she was excited, but when we got to her first practice, she seemed to have no interest in the game. I sat on the sidelines watching her first soccer practice unfold.

With heavy embarrassment, I watched as my girl and three other teammates laughed. They all clung to their coach’s legs when they were supposed to be running a drill. Worse, two of the serious, more focused players sat staring at the debacle, likely thinking, “Uh, guys… We’re supposed to be playing soccer. Whatdaya doing?”

Should I Do Anything? 

My eyes rolled. Why my kid? What should I do?

Should I yell at my kid from across the field? Should I walk across the sports field and pull her off her coach’s leg? The mom next to me answered my inner dialogue by shouting across the field at her daughter “Get off her legs!” One of the dads stood up from his camping chair, shouted his daughter’s name and passionately pointed in different directions. The two parents shouting proved to be enough for the four teammates to 
return to practice, but I still sat wondering.

What is my place? When do I step in when my girl is misbehaving on the field?

The situation with my girl and her teammates hanging onto their coach’s legs was not an isolated incident. It happened almost every practice and sometimes in games. Ugh. Cool. Really testing my mom skills.

Time To Take Action!

I had to take some action from the sidelines, I told myself.

At first, I adopted the dad’s technique from the first practice. I shouted my girl’s name and passionately gestured, sometimes adding in a snap of the fingers and a point along with my best “I’m-really-angry” face. Sometimes, this would work, but it would depend on how involved my girl and her teammates were in the leg squeezing. Sometimes, I got no reaction at all. I reasoned that it was because the girls were being loud. But I wonder if my girl assumed the same thing I did: You have no power here.

That’s when I came to this conclusion: My girl is in the coach’s control on the field, not mine.

It’s much like when I drop my girl off at school and she is under her teacher’s rules. While my daughter was on the field, she was under the coach’s rules. The difference between the two is that I don’t see the messes unfold at school. I do, however, at sports practice. It’s an inner struggle, but as I observed watching and talking to other parents, a natural one.

The Action I Chose to Take? 

I decided I did need to take action from the sidelines. The action I chose was silence.

As I put my girl on the sports field with the coach, I also let go of parenting her—just for a short time. The coach was her teacher and I had to step back and let the coach do just that. I made the decision that the only time I would step in on my girl’s behavior while she was in soccer practice and games was when the coach sent her off the field to me.

On days that my girl has little focus, I have a pop quiz before practice as a last resort: Is this okay to do? And what do you do when this happens?

And then I hand her off to her coach, and she’s out of my hands as I become the onlooker. There are moments I cringe; moments I beam. It’s a slow process, but I’m slowly letting my little girl fly. She takes what she has learned from her dad and me and flies with that knowledge for a bit. She comes back, we re-evaluate, and then off she goes again.  

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