Parenting Perspective from the Sideline

I’ve teased my dad over the years that if he’d had a child with a modicum of athletic ability – or interest – he’d be one of those parents. You know, the foaming at the mouth, way-too-vested, loony-tune sports parent. The guy or gal who screams at the ref, politics for more playtime for their kids and forgets that this whole thing is really supposed to be about fun. Indeed, my dad is a certified sports nut. So much so that it’s not uncommon to see him on bended knee with hands in prayer during a Tigers playoff game. Frankly, it’s the only time I’ve seen my dad pray. We joke that family tragedies don’t stir up his spirituality but baseballs and hockey pucks do. (Sorry Lions, but even my dad knows a lost cause.) And yet, the truth is that my dad probably wouldn’t be one of those parents. As much as he loves sports – and believe me, he really, really does – he’s always had a pretty healthy amount of perspective when it comes to being a parent. My dad is Mr. No Pressure. When I took part in spelling bees or writing competitions, he was cool as a cucumber, offering benign encouragement like, “You’ll do great, Kid.” And when I lived up to his prophecy, he was proud, to be sure. But he wasn’t over-the-top about it. And he never seemed let down if I didn’t excel. “You did great,” he’d say – even if I didn’t.

Of course, none of this was sports-related, so who knows? It could have brought out a whole other side to him.

In this month’s issue of Metro Parent, we get advice from parents who’ve been put to the test – those who’ve shown their parenting prowess raising kids with athletic ability. These moms (yes, moms!) have kids who’ve excelled in sports (A) and yet have found a way to balance their child’s passion with the needs of their families, all while offering encouragement (not pressure!) to their budding athletes. Two moms in particular are in a unique position to offer advice: Cheryl Davis and Jacqui White are moms to Olympic ice dancing champs Meryl Davis and Charlie White. But all of the moms could school many a dad or two on what to do and what not to do as a sports parent. Above all, hands down, they all said that playing a sport to the degree that their kids do requires a major commitment – for the family and the child. And if the child’s interest in the sport waned, then it would stop. No more tournaments or endless practice sessions. No more bruised or battered bodies. No more. Because what makes them “good” sports parents is that they remember the most important thing: It’s not about your needs or wants. It’s about your child and fostering their passions, not yours.

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