My son was resuscitated at birth. When I was finally able to hold him, his whole body was black and blue from bruising that happened during a very traumatic birth — for both him and for me. They told me he was fine, but I knew they were wrong. For his first two years of life, he had weekly physical therapy sessions to help strengthen damaged nerves and muscles. We were told he may never crawl, may have trouble walking, and would likely never throw a ball.
Some people dream of their kids playing in the NHL, I just dreamed my son could play.
He may not be the fastest or the strongest on his competitive teams but he is often the most determined, based on his pure love for sports.
Maybe it was my son’s rough start at the beginning, but I never actually pictured myself as a competitive sports mom. Since all three of my kids are now competitive athletes, I’ve come to learn that there are many things I was unprepared for. There are also things I wish someone had told me before we started — the good, the bad, and the reasons you'll need waterproof mascara.
Competitive sports cost a lot of money (more than you may think), especially in the first two years. You can budget for fees, tuition, and uniforms but often forget to factor in the cost of specialized equipment, team jackets, travel, and even the professional photos they take at the end of the year. My advice is to budget what you think it’s going to cost, then double it. You’ll learn to look at the cost more as an investment in the other things below rather than a monthly payment that’s sometimes more than your mortgage.
Just when you thought your laundry basket couldn’t be any more full of logoed team wear, you’ll decide you need your own gear. From warm-up jackets, jogging pants, gym bags, water bottles and even onesie pajamas (see below for info on how you can score a cute sports-themed onesie for your little one from Carter’s | OshKosh). You’ll soon come to find your kids’ team logo on everything, even a few things in your own closet.
If you want your kids to learn about dedication, hard work, being a team player, time management, self-esteem, problem-solving, respect, confidence and so much more, competitive sports are often the place they will learn. You'll be blown away by how your child will push themselves to be a better player, a better team member, a better person and even get their homework done on time because of their dedication to the sport and their team.
There will always be that one parent who doesn’t understand that our kids are here to play. Most of them (or maybe none of them) will likely ever make it to the professional leagues or get accepted at a professional ballet company. The horror stories you hear about “those types of parents” are true and they will say nasty things and yell at refs, judges, their kids, your kids, and other parents. You’ll have to make difficult decisions about dealing with these parents. Sometimes it can be as easy as ignoring (usually they end up leaving the team if there aren’t other like-minded (aka: difficult) parents) and other times, you’ll need to decide whether the team, club, or studio is really right for your family.
This may make birthday parties difficult but competitive sports kids are often equally close to their friends at school and their team friends. I’ve found this to be very helpful especially with the girls. When there’s drama at school and feelings hurt, the kids have a second group of friends to turn to – friends who are working towards a common goal and because of this, often become the stronger group of friends.
Your team friends will become like family. If your child plays on the same team for multiple years, the bonds they make with their teammates and you make with the other parents will become stronger than you ever expect. Between traveling together, hanging out for hours at the gym, arena, club or studio together and sharing in each other’s kids’ successes, struggles and even injuries makes the team like a second family. You will find yourselves easily chauffeuring, feeding, helping, and comforting each other’s kids (and each other). You’ll learn how most kids on the team need their skates tied and what their moms take in their coffee (and their favourite type of wine). The other parents often become one of the greatest gifts of being a competitive sports mom.
Most of your non-competitive sports friends will never understand the money and hours you spend so your kids can play the sports they love.
Your kids will be exhausted...so exhausted, that after a weekend of competing, you’ll let them stay home from school and write notes to the teacher about needing more time to complete their homework. Some days, they will be so exhausted, you’ll wonder if they're strong enough to keep this up and if you’re strong enough to watch them try.
You’ll start looking forward to Monday mornings...if you like lazy weekends, do not become a competitive sports mom. Weekends are busy, especially during the competitive season.
Saying no is hard...really hard! But sometimes you have to do it. There will always be “extra” opportunities for competitive sports kids that come with extra bills and extra time requirements. Sometimes, it’s just not possible. It’s important to be open and honest with your kids throughout the season about the cost of their sport and what you, as a family, are capable of giving. You may be surprised by how much your kids really understand.
If you don’t yet know how to pack snacks for an entire day of practice or competing in under 10 minutes (while telling your kids to “hurry!” because you’re going to be late for practice and trying to find the jersey you swear was hanging in their closet yesterday), you’ll learn. Before you know it, you’ll be shopping for jumbo-sized containers of fruit, nuts, healthy granola bars and baking other snacks to keep your kids (and their team – because sharing is caring!) fueled.
Buy waterproof mascara...lots of it. I still cry every single time my daughters perform their solos at competition and my son learns a new skill the doctors didn’t think he’d ever be able to do. Just when you think you’ve seen them do something 100 times, all of a sudden you’re holding back tears and when you can’t hold them back any more, you’ll be thankful for that waterproof mascara.
Before you know it, you’ll start to refer to your child as an "athlete." A term often reserved for professionals and Olympians. Your little one will be strong enough, dedicated enough, and hard working enough to earn the term and you will be proud enough to call them athletes.
Get comfortable...you’ll be here for a while. As a competitive sports mom, you have a front row seat to watching your child push themselves beyond the limits others have set for them. They'll also come to understand what it means to be a part of a team, learn dedication, compassion and the value of hard work and how to both win and lose with gratitude for just being given the opportunity to play the game. These lessons are invaluable life skills and being your child's #1 fan creates a bond that will stay with them always. Some days you may wonder how you’re going to make it through another competition or tournament, but you may as well block off the rest of your weekends, because you’ll definitely be back.
I’ve learned to never underestimate the determination of a child who wants to play sports. They may have had a rough start. They may not be the best. They may have been told they would never throw a ball. But if they want to play, they’ll find a way to do it and you’ll be cheering them on every step of the way.
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