Being a newer youth sports mom, it is hard to not get excited and overly involved in all the things around your kids’ sports. At first, I wanted to be the parent who had the Pinterest looking snack bags and always ready for practice and games. But a few seasons in I had to come to terms with the fact that I am not that crafty, and I am lucky to have both shin guards, my kid and the water bottle to practice on time!
As I reflect about being a mom who is on the youth sports journey and an Executive Director at the Y, it is even harder to not get emotionally invested in all the things surrounding it. Youth sports can hold a negative connotation sometimes and as parents honestly, we can be the driving force to the madness. It is not because we are bad people; we just want the best for our kids. Sometimes we need reminded to give grace in the process.
Spring is right around the corner, and it is time for a new season. While I am making a mental list of things we need for the season and trying to remember where I put my bag chairs, I am also thinking about the unsung heroes of the youth sports world. My hope this season is we lift them up. I want the unsung heroes to know their hard work and dedication is noticed and appreciated.
>The sports director who is really a cruise director, meteorologist and magician all rolled into one. Thank you for spending countless hours making sure teams are put together, fields are ready to play, finding ways for volunteer coaches to have more tools to be better and honestly being the glue. You lend a listening ear to all and know that youth sports are bigger than this one game or even this one season. You know that by creating a safe and welcoming environment for some kids it might be the safest place they will be all week. Thank you for watching the weather too – I SEE YOU and appreciate all you do!
>The referee who is also a high school student, this could be your first official job and you are nervous about making a good impression and do not want to make a mistake. I know it is not an easy job, you are human and do not have eyes in the back of your head so you cannot see or call everything. Thank you for keeping my child safe, slowing the game down at times and teaching them the rules so they don’t keep making those same mistakes. Thank you for managing a difference of opinion with grace and positivity. Thank you for being kind to every kid on the field or court. You have a very tough but particularly important job – I SEE YOU and appreciate all you do!
>The volunteer coach who may be learning how to be a coach. He or she might have been thrown in trial by fire because their child’s team did not have a coach to start with. Thank you for taking time to lead my child in learning the fundamentals of a sport you love and now he does too. Thank you for wrangling them in when they get a little silly and even spending your own money to buy penne jersey’s because you thought having a group of 5-year-old boys play a soccer scrimmage as shirts vs skins was super simple and instead the rest of practice they chanted “Naked Team, Naked Team”! Thank you for teaching them the love of the game, to get up when they fall and try again. Thank you for the high fives and the encouragement – I SEE YOU and appreciate all you do!
>The players… at all ages and abilities. I see the love of the game and the expression on your faces when things do not go well. As a mom, I owe it to you and the team to always be your cheerleader and make sure you are all surrounded with kindness even if things didn’t go your way. Give your teammates a high five, make those silly faces in team pictures and hold your head up high – you played great today – I SEE YOU, keep smiling!
>The parents who are really part pack mule and part ATM. Remember to give your player and yourself grace, nobody is perfect, we are all learning here. You may forget you had snack duty one day and that is okay. Be a cheerleader, we will all survive the season, and no one will remember the score of today’s game! Just know that I thank you for giving your child the gift of sports and team - I SEE YOU and appreciate you!
After reflecting on the unsung heroes, I take myself to those times when we are packing up after a game – there was a score, one team won, one team lost and that is okay. Everyone can learn something, sometimes you learn more about yourself and others in a loss, right? But in youth sports, this is where we create something that is so much more than the game – we are building good humans.
With our chairs strapped to our shoulder and somehow all the extra stuff our kids are too tired to hold, remember each player processes their experience differently. Some kids may run up and say, “Mom did you see my big rainbow kick?” and others may not say a word, they just need a blue slushy because things didn’t go their way and Grandma said she was buying.
Win or lose, your child does not need to hear the shoulda, woulda, coulda’s of the game or even a play by play of the game from your vantage point; they lived it, they know what happened. When they are ready to talk ask them what their favorite part of the game was or did, they have fun with their teammates? Or even, can have a bite of the blue slushy? Let them know you are there, support them and encourage them.
The next time you are at a game or practice, please take some time to recognize and give grace to the unsung heroes of youth sports. These AMAZING humans are pretty awe inspiring and I am happy to be a part of it.
Missy Kinzie, Southwest YMCA Executive Director (and Youth Sports Parent)