The Five Most Important Sports Parenting Words

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Relay start at the All Star Festival at the old Belmont pool.

While writing about swim parenting, I have interviewed a lot of swim parents and coaches. I also read sports parenting books and listen to webinars like David Benzel’s Growing Champions for Life. There’s a phrase I keep hearing from all these sources. The five most important words to tell your athlete: “I love to watch you play.” 

I read an article in The Times Union, a paper in Albany, NY, called Youth sports parenting model is simple: I love watching you play by Joyce Bassett.

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Teammates.

When my children played sports, I told them two things before they left my car to step on the playing fields or lace up their hockey skates or ski boots.

Good luck. Have fun.

I spoke these four words from an early age through their college playing days. For the latter, it often was in a text. I didn’t coin the phrase, I remember reading a story about youth sports that recommended those four words to say to young athletes before a game.

The latest more popular version of that four-word guide is “I love to watch you play.” Nicole Roberts, a soccer coach and state soccer Hall of Famer I wrote about in last week’s column, told me about the “I love to watch you play” website geared for parenting of young athletes.  She also forwarded to me the TEDx Talk by soccer player and coach John O’Sullivan called “Changing the game in youth sports” which has garnered more than 375,000 views.

The website —  Ilovetowatchyouplay.com — features a video of young athletes talking about their parents. It’s called “The truth about sports parents …” More than 500,000 people have watched that video. You should too.

The columnist wrote about some of her personal experiences as a mom of kids a fe years older than mine. She asked her daughter what she remembered and could say about sports parents.

She was mostly positive. She said she remembers cheers and only a couple of parents stood out as being annoying sideline screamers. She said she learned early on to focus on the game, not people yelling in the stands. (Although she also mentioned being a spectator for her brother’s hockey and lacrosse games and said those times were “crazy.”)

She reminded me that “Good luck. Have fun,” was my way of saying “I love to watch you play.” She even wrote an Instagram post about it three years ago in a series of inspirational graphic designs.

Bassett said she gets asked questions from sports parents from time to time and her advice has changed through the years. I understand that well because the further we are removed from the roller coaster of youth sports, the more we can look at situations objectively. We have learned through our mistakes and our feelings that magnify problems as much bigger than they actually are. Time is a good filter.

Here’s her advice to a mom who’s enjoying sheltering in place with her kids and wondering what’s going to happen when youth sports start up again:

Another friend said she has enjoyed the pandemic stay-at-home pause because she would be coaching right now, struggling to get her children to and from practices, while working full-time as a teacher. On top of gymnastics finishing up, soccer entering the outdoor season, and track, spring became overwhelming. It was too much, too hectic.

When the time comes to get back to practices and games for children, there will be a push to make up for lost time by hiring personal trainers or sending kids to expensive camps or showcases. Parents and young athletes must resist FOMO (fear of missing out).

My new advice: Continue to pause and enjoy fun activities with your family. Don’t let youth sports get in the way of family time.

robkatwater

When they first joined the team.

What are your thoughts about returning to sports parenting. Will this break give you a new perspective?

Tips to Promote Creativity in Kids

With so many parents at home with their kids, I was thinking about how they must be looking for creative and fun things to do — besides getting the homework done. The Coronavirus may be causing uncertain times, but we do have more time. Perhaps parents can take advantage of the lack of extracurriculars — racing from the pool to ballet, etc. — and let the kids play. I think we may look back on these days as a time when we could breathe, relax and play. 

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I’d let my kids have a tub of large chalk and draw all over our patio. It drove my husband crazy to come home from work and see our kids and their friends drawing all over our back yard. It hosed off, though. Also, I’d buy a roll of butcher paper and let them paint or draw across the patio, hoping they’d keep it on the paper.

At the beach, they’d build villages with drip castles and loved to play chef at a restaurant. I’d patiently taste each creation (pile of wet sand) and tell them how delicious it was.

I remember taking my kids to a photographer for Christmas pictures. I had them all dressed up in their matching red and green Gymboree outfits. My daughter was a baby and my son three. My son moved all the chairs and benches into two rows all facing forward. We asked him what he was doing and he explained he was building an airplane (the two lines of furniture were the seats and aisle.) The photographer was extremely patient as I tried to put everything back in it’s place.

My mom was big on creativity and she allowed us to destroy our living room with forts of card tables and sheets, dig to China and build a pond for polliwogs. I remember making dozens of puppets with Woolite bottles as the heads and swatches of fabric for the outfits. Mom did get annoyed with me for chopping out a chunk of fabric from the center of all the yardage of fabric in her sewing room!

What exactly is creativity? Here’s a definition:

noun

  1. the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
    “firms are keen to encourage creativity”

 

Here’s an excerpt from Greater Good Magazine 7 Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Kids by Christine Carter:

Many people assume that creativity is an inborn talent that their kids either do or do not have: just as all children are not equally intelligent, all children are not equally creative. But actually, creativity is more skill than inborn talent, and it is a skill parents can help their kids develop.

Because it is a key to success in nearly everything we do, creativity is a key component of health and happiness and a core skill to practice with kids. Creativity is not limited to artistic and musical expression—it is also essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, which makes them more able to adapt to technological advances and deal with change—as well as take advantage of new opportunities.

Many researchers believe we have fundamentally changed the experience of childhood in such a way that impairs creative development. Toy and entertainment companies feed kids an endless stream of prefab characters, images, props and plot-lines that allow children to put their imaginations to rest. Children no longer need to imagine a stick is a sword in a game or story they’ve imagined: they can play Star Wars with a specific light-saber in costumes designed for the specific role they are playing.

Carter has a bunch of tips of things we can do to promote creativity that includes giving  kids space and resources for creative play. Also, she says it’s important to allow our kids to make mistakes and fail. If they’re afraid of failure their creativity will be stifled. Limiting screen and TV time will give kids a chance for art and reading. Another bit of advice is to not tell our kids what to do. For example, I made my daughter take piano lessons for years against her will. She would have been much better off following her own passions like making mosaics and painting. For years she made gifts for her friends by getting a few supplies from Michaels and using her creativity. For a complete list of her tips, read the article here

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Parent Tip: Follow Your Own Advice

I wrote this during my daughter’s freshman year at college. I was transitioning from age group/high school swim mom to college swim mom. I loved all my swim mom years, but the freshman year was super exciting because of all the “firsts.”
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I’ve written several articles about not focusing on your swimmer’s times.

I have a confession to make: I have been so worried about my daughter’s times this year. She was adding 30 seconds to her 1,000 and mile. And more than 15 seconds on her 500. I believe she was swimming times she had as a 13-14 year old and she’s a freshman in college!

Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.

Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.

Trust the coach. I have written that more than a few times. My husband and I tried to relax and not worry. But, why was she swimming so slow? I’ll admit it. I was freaking out.

The freshman year is a big adjustment. She not only had to get used to living away from home for the first time, i.e. taking care of the daily aspects of her life and school. She also had a major change in her workouts, was training at altitude, and started weight training.

At one of her last dual meets of the season, the head coach told us that Kat was doing very well. That the coaches could see the progress she was making in practice. That was reassuring to us. After all, we never watched her in practice. We only saw her in dual meets. And saw those times…

Two weeks later we were at her conference meet. It was shaved and tapered time. She got a best time in the 500 by two seconds. This was the first drop she had in that event in almost two years. Then she swam the mile and dropped a whopping 16 seconds.

But, who’s focusing on times? It’s more important that my daughter loves her teammates, her coaches, her classes and is having fun. Right?

Like I said before. Trust the coach. Don’t focus on the times.

Practice at the home pool.

Practice at the home pool.

Have you ever not followed the advice you give to other parents? 

Generation A: New Challenges for Parents

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Before the internet was a thing.

I am so thankful my kids were born in the late 90s and not today. Do you know why? Because we didn’t have to worry so much about screen time. We had one of those big box TVs and a VCR in the back bedroom. My biggest worry wasn’t how much time they were looking at screens, but what my son was going to “feed” it — a small toy or a peanut butter sandwich? Yes. He did that.

We allowed our kids to use the computer and they had DVDs that had educational activities that fascinated them. And they watched movies on the DVDs, too. But we didn’t have the internet back then. I didn’t have anywhere, like Facebook or Instagram, to post hundreds of pictures of them until much later! I’m sure they are thankful they were born in the 1990s for that very reason, too!

An article called Challenges of parenting “Generation A” from CBS affiliate KWCH12 in Wichita, Kansas, explains some of the fears parents have today and offer a few tips on how to deal with the challenges:

Generation A

It’s a new term to describe children who were born after 2010. They are the children of millennials. And they live in a world where smartphones and the internet have always existed.

Experts say that’s important because all the technology brings challenges for parents, including a risk of addiction.

Kids born after 2010 have phones in their faces almost immediately after they’re born. Their parents are taking pictures to post on Instagram and Facebook.

Experts warn, if you aren’t careful, that could grow into a technology addiction that makes it difficult for kids to interact with other kids.

“There is a certain type of addictive piece to playing a game, getting rewards, passing certain levels, and it’s just more fun than real life,” said Kalee Beal, who works with kids in the autism community at Heartspring.

She says now, even kids who don’t have autism are facing some of the same developmental challenges because of the technology in front of them.

I watched my toddler son become mesmerized whenever that giant purple dinosaur Barney would appear on TV. That was the only thing he seemed to be obsessed with on the screen. We also watched a ton of VCRs I’d check out from the library for free. I remember my Aunt Linda was so surprised during one of her visits. My son asked if she wanted to watch a movie with him. She was sure it would be a Disney cartoon. She was pleasantly surprised when he turned on “Meet Me in St. Louis.” After years of watching every musical the library had, my son asked me, “Mom, do they make any movies where they aren’t singing and dancing all the time?”

Here are some tips from the article about Generation A:

Beal offered some tips for parents.

First, she says technology is a great positive behavior enforcer, as long as you set limits. And, when time is up, take the device away.

She says games requiring problem-solving and strategy can be good for development, but parents should download the game and play it themselves before handing the tablet over to their children.

Parents should know if kids can chat with others through the game, which could expose them to danger.

Beal says kids are very tech savvy, and if you set up parental controls, they may find a way to disable or work around them.

She recommends looking through devices often to make sure your child didn’t tamper with safety settings.

robert

Back when my son would “feed” the VCR.

What do you recommend to parents of Generation A to limit screen time? Do you think too much screen time is a concern?

Why can’t I stop with the unsolicited advice?

My kids

My kids

I wrote this post about unsolicited advice several years ago. I keep on repeating the same mistake. When my kids are going through an uneasy time, I jump with advice on what they should do. This especially angers my daughter and she snaps at me. My so will listen calmly and then ignore whatever I have to say. I really need to stop this constant need to fix everything in my children’s lives! They need to experience life and learn on their own. Mommy can’t do it for them. Here’s the story I wrote about unsolicited advice:

A few weeks ago, my daughter was telling me how she’d missed practice because she had a midterm and the time conflicted. Her coach wasn’t happy, she said.

“Well,” I said, “maybe you should call her and explain. Or, better yet, next time you’re going to miss practice, let her know in advance.”

“Mom, I’m telling you something. I don’t need your unsolicited advice. A simple ‘that sucks’ would suffice.”

I was offended. My feelings were tweaked, not exactly hurt. I thought, what is going on with her?

This week she called and asked for my advice about a sticky situation with a friend. I get it now. She had a problem she couldn’t solve on her own. She wanted my advice and then she would handle it from there.

In her dorm room getting settled.

In her dorm room getting settled.

My mistake has been offering advice when my perfectly capable, adult child is making her own decisions and finding her own way. She does not need her mom telling her what to do all the time.

This was reinforced again when she called with an issue with her university and paperwork for the fall quarter. I gave her a few suggestions of who to call, what to do.

“I’ve done all that, Mom. I’m just telling you about it.”

Yes, I understand now. She’s sharing the trials and tribulations in her life. She’s not asking me what to do. If she needs my help she will ask me.

With teammates after breaking the 8 and under 4 x 50 relay record.

With teammates after breaking the 8 and under 4 x 50 relay record.

I should be thankful that my daughter likes to share. That she can figure things out on her own. That she’s got a strong head and can handle the daily tasks of living in a house, paying utility bills, handling school bureaucracy, and getting a speeding ticket.

Welcome to adulthood! I guess a simple “that sucks” from time to time is all she needs.

How do you handle unsolicited advice when someone offers some to you?

When should we defend our kids?

When they were young.

One sure sign of being a helicopter parent is to jump in without being asked to solve your kids’ problems. I was always a stickler for what was right or wrong and I never shied away from addressing any issue. I would go to bat for my kids whenever I felt they were being slighted. Looking back, I know I should have let them fight their own battles.

Here are a few things I took on when I thought my kids weren’t being treated right:

I wrote an email to my son’s AP History teacher to complain about his grade. He was .05 off an A and I felt the teacher should round it up. I got a note back explaining that if he were to round up my son’s grade, he’d have to go back and do the same thing for every other student in his grade book who was a fraction off the next higher grade. (Not a bad idea, I thought!) My son was being passed over for his school’s nomination for the coveted National Merit Scholarship award because of the B, but he lived through it. I doubt he loses any sleep over it today. I know I don’t. Instead I want him to be happy and healthy.

When I felt a coach was picking on my son, I made an appointment to complain about it, only to find out that he had earned the “coach’s award” for best attitude and effort. That surprised me and I’m embarrassed about that meeting to this day.

When my daughter was given five days of after-school detention for forgetting to bring the photocopy of Christmas song lyrics to music class, I complained that the punishment was over the top. In fact, other kids were given two nights detention, so there was a definite crossing the line by the music teacher—in my humble opinion. I don’t regret fighting for her that time at all.

randk 11There are countless other incidents where I went to battle for my kids. I do believe I taught them the difference between right and wrong and that they should stand up for themselves. At least that’s what I told myself at the time. I should have known better though, and let them handle it.

I couldn’t understand why other parents would stand by and let bad things happen to their kids. I do now. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and shrug your shoulders. I’ve found that some of the things that would have bugged me to no end, will soon disappear on their own within a few days or weeks. By making an issue out of little things, they can turn into big ones and burn a lot of energy and create angst.

My daughter complained to me during her last year of school, during a meeting with students on a group project, the guys were complaining that all the women coming forward about sexual harassment were “just looking for attention.” That infuriated my daughter to no end. I asked her if she was going to put up with it or wanted to go to the professor or counselor and complain. She decided to let it go. She was a week from being done with that class and just wanted to get through it. I told her I would stand by whatever she decided.

When my son received a letter telling him he was kicked out of college during the summer after his freshman year for bad grades, I was horrified. But, then I stood by and watched him research his options online. He wrote a letter to contest the decision and got hospital and doctor records to substantiate his unfortunate circumstances of an injury and surgery which caused too many missed classes. He was let back in without me doing a thing. After that, he earned As.

Me and my boy.

One thing I know about parenting is all we can do is try our best. It’s been my goal to raise kids who know the difference between right and wrong and will try their best as well.

What do you think about parents fighting battles for their kids? Are they helping or hurting them by getting involved?

Teach your kids these 10 skills — before college

After my son left for college, I realized that I was negligent preparing him for life. Yes, he had good grades. Yes, he had the right “stuff.” But he was seriously lacking on a few life skills. I spent time teaching my daughter the basics before it was her turn to leave. She was better prepared for the daily tasks–although that doesn’t necessarily mean life won’t throw you some bumps in the road.

 

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My son giving his high school graduation speech.

“He tried college a couple times. It just didn’t take,” a dad of one of my son’s friends told me last night at the grocery store.

Next, I got a call from a close friend, whose happy-go-lucky daughter checked herself into a campus hospital, because she felt so overwhelmed and out of control.

Another friend told me their son quit after one semester after too much partying and not enough studying. Yet another mom left on a rescue mission to help a child in need.

What the heck is going on with our kids and college? My own son struggled to find his way his freshman year.  

All of these parents, myself included, believed college was the best and only choice for their kids.imgres-1

Maybe college isn’t for everyone? Maybe we did too much for them? Maybe we didn’t let them fail often or enough?

I’ll talk more about why kids are struggling in college on another day. And if we have an epidemic on our hands.

But, first, I want to share basic things kids need to know before they leave for college. I was often surprised at questions my son would ask me during his first year at college. I’m going to make sure my second child checks off every item on my “top 10 things kids need to know before going to college” list.

  1. Banking skills. Know how to write a check, make a deposit face-to-face with a teller, fill out a deposit slip, and use an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals. Balancing a check-book falls under the banking list.
  2. Laundry. Have your kids do their own laundry so they know how to sort white and colors, hand-wash, hang dry, and fold–and what it feels like to be out of clean clothes. The clean underwear does not appear by magic! imgres-5
  3. Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables, and cooking rice. 
  4. Grocery shopping. Just like clean underwear, the food in the fridge doesn’t appear out of thin air. Teach how to make a list, look for coupons, find sale items, and learn how to read unit pricing on shelves.imgres-6
  5. How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from Robert: “Mom. I’m at Costco and how do I get home with cases of water, yogurt, and Top Ramen on my bike?”  Hmmm. Good question.
  6. Budgeting. If your child hasn’t worked at a job and you provide their basic necessities, they lack budgeting skills. My son got his first paycheck working a summer retail job. The check was for $175. He bought his girlfriend a dress for $110 and spent the rest on dinner for the two of them. Very romantic, but not practical when he needed to eat the next week and month.
  7. Theft. At college, thieves are everywhere. My first week of college, I hand-washed some sweaters and hung them out to dry in the bathroom. Within minutes — gone. I had a bike stolen from my sorority storage room — and a locked bike stolen when I used a restroom during a ride around Green Lake. My son’s laptop was stolen when he left it in a study area in his dorm. Make sure they have “find my laptop” activated and never leave anything unattended! Don’t use a chain or cable lock for your bike — use a solid bar type. 
  8. Professors. They set aside office hours and only one or two students bother to stop by per semester. They are thrilled to help and meet students face-to-face. This can help for future referrals, references, internships — and grades. Have your kid meet with each professor at least once, every semester. It can’t hurt!images-2
  9. Cars. Basic things like checking tire pressure, oil and water levels, changing tires and pumping gas. Maybe they won’t have a car right away, but at some point they will and car maintenance is not an instinct. It’s a learned skill.
  10. Learn to say no! College means hanging out with friends, listening to music, parties, dances, rallies, job opportunities, football games, intramural sports, going out to eat, etc. Studying is priority number one. Learning to say no will help your kid stay focused.
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My daughter with Waffles.

What other essential life skills would you add to the list?

 

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