Raising a family of athletes is a sport in itself! Preparation, execution, and commitment are definitely not only for the athletes. There’s a fine line between chaos and organized chaos! In my mistakes and triumphs over 11 years; 3 children; 5 sports; team manager roles; and coach’s wife experience; I have noted the keys to not just keeping it all together, but having fun doing it, and raising pretty successful athletes at the same time!
1. Value each athlete’s sport equally. Make as big of a deal out of the wobbly handstand as you do the winning touchdown pass. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the college scouts at the club soccer game, or the beautiful spiral pass to win the football game. While those are definitely feats worthy of attention, the wobbly handstands or slide into second base are a pretty big deal to your athletes as well. In most families the younger siblings are dragged to their older brothers’ and sisters’ practices and games. They’re pretty much deemed a faithful fan by no choice of their own. Nonetheless, they’re always there cheering on their siblings. In our family, when schedules allow, we make it a point to have our older children show up at practices and games of our youngest in the family. Creating an environment where each athlete’s sport is equally valued is key in raising a family of happy and successful athletes!
2. Develop relationships with parents. When raising a family of athletes, it’s inevitable that you will need to rely on a fellow parent at some time. Get to know parents beyond the sideline. It’s a good idea to develop relationships you can count on when you’re in a bind!
3. Stay organized. When more than one kid is playing sports, it’s likely that more than one family member is playing taxi. With various cars toting around kids to games and practices, equipment can be scattered. Let’s face it, in a perfect world our children would never leave a shoe, glove, or ball in the car, but this world is far from perfect. Avoid a game day equipment catastrophe by doing a uniform and equipment check the night before. Also, be sure that everyone helping get kids to practices and games have their contact info included on team texts and emails. Keeping your team manager informed with the proper contact information will save you and the team a lot of headache.
4. Teach Responsibility. This tip is a natural continuation of the previous tip to stay organized. If a child is old enough to play a sport, he or she is old enough to learn responsibility. Obviously, the level of accountability increases with age, but it’s never too early to start giving a young athlete responsibility. Have a place to display both practice and game checklists for each child’s sport. Encourage them to check their lists, and get all of their items together. It’s surprising how much a child is capable of if given the task, and how much chaos they can eliminate when they’re ready to go with everything they need!
5. “For the love of the game” Make sure your kids are enjoying the sports they’re playing. Sometimes too many sports in the family means just that…too many sports. Re-evaluate at the end of each season. Notice I said “at the end of the season.” It’s important to teach our children to carry through with a commitment; however, once the season is complete it’s a good idea to make sure your child loves the sport before committing to another season. As children get older, the sacrifice and commitment required to play a sport will increase greatly, and as Mia Hamm once said, “It’s not a sacrifice if you love what you’re doing.”
6. Keep a balance. Although sports are fun, it’s good to have fun as a family outside of the pressure that youth sports can sometimes create. Youth sports today have become extremely competitive, and the expectations placed on young athletes can be overwhelming at times. When you’re a family of athletes, the majority of time outside of work and school is at practices and games. Although most multi- sport families love and welcome this fact, a balance is always healthy. Do something fun as a family where your kids can get their minds completely off of either their last game or upcoming game. And if you still can’t help yourself, and want to play a sport together for fun, pick one that your kids don’t play. Play a game of family kickball or dodge ball.
7. No two Athletes are the same. This tip is very important to remember. As parents, sometimes we have to catch ourselves when we begin to compare. Just because one child may be very aggressive and prefer a contact sport, that doesn’t mean that your other child will be. Some children are born with that fire in their belly to succeed, while others need a fire lit under their derriere, figuratively of course! Find each child’s strengths and be careful not to compare your athletes. Comparing your athletes will only lead to unrealistic expectations set by parents; insecurities developed in the children; and bitterness toward siblings.
9. Know that you can’t be everywhere for everything, but you can be part of it. One of the most difficult parts of being the parent of multiple athletes is the fact that it’s simply not possible to be at everything. Big games are going to be missed. Touchdowns, goals, shots, wins and losses will be missed, but this doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of it. I started something with my children for the days we’re all going in separate directions, that I call “cleat notes.” No, it’s not the cliff notes we all used in school, it’s a little note I leave them in their cleats, or other gear they will be putting on before the game. I just want them to know that even though I can’t be there, I still want to be a part of it. It’s the little things that keep a busy multi-sport family connected.
An on-the-go mother of 3 young athletes, and wife to a youth football coach, Amber's passion is to educate, encourage, and connect our sports community to raise a generation of healthy and successful athletes! She proudly does this with the help of The Athlete's Parent's team of experts.