It’s taboo to admit, but I’ll say it. When my 13 year old son didn’t make the soccer team, mixed with feelings of heart-wrenching sadness for my boy who slumped into the car, sweaty and dejected after being cut, was also a sense of selfish relief for myself.
They say that being an athlete takes dedication, but it’s less often recognized that being the parent of a student athlete takes dedication, too. When your child is involved in a sport, or even trying out for a sport, your whole life suddenly revolves around his or her schedule. As a freelance writer I have a lot more flexibility than some people and yet I still found it difficult. How parents who work outside the home are able to manage a child in sports (or multiple children in multiple sports!) is beyond my understanding.
There are the early morning practices to get your child to, and you better make sure they’re on time, regardless of whether you have a tendency to run late yourself. Show up even a few minutes after his teammates and the coach may have your child doing extra push-ups or laps around the track—as if you don’t have enough parental guilt!
Read Related: Girls and Rough Sports
The time commitment is pretty intense—not only are there morning practices, but some schools do “two-a-day” practices during a period of training also known as Hell Week. It’s called Hell Week because it’s challenging and exhausting for the athletes, but its Hell Week for parents too—Hell on my schedule and on my car’s gas tank. More than once I found myself sitting in my hot car for two hours in the school parking lot so I wouldn’t have to drive as much. Oh, and if twice a day practices weren’t enough, don’t forget the mandatory evening parent meeting.
Even if you have all the time in the world, the financial demands made on parents of young athletes is yet another hurdle. Our son only tried out for the team and yet during those two months we were required to buy him cleats, shin guards, knee socks, and a scrimmage T-shirt. This does not include money we spent on gas and fundraising for the team, not to mention the extra loads of laundry, showers, and the massive amounts of food and bottled water he consumed after practices. Maybe for some families these expenses are mere pocket change, but they took a major toll on our budget.
As I said, when our son didn’t make the cut, I had mixed emotions. But relief was definitely a part of that mix. Our son was disappointed but rebounded quickly. “I’ll train even harder,” he said, “and maybe I’ll try out for the team next year.”
I smiled and patted him on the back, knowing that I’d do it all over again.