I am not an athlete. I never have been. I was the brainy girl who was oh-so-awkward in school. I never felt like I had a pride of supporters– until I discovered horses. I have loved being around horses since I was 6 years old, but they became my home in middle school. For the first time, I felt accepted. When I was in the show ring or merely mucking out a stall, I belonged. Belonging is the beauty of team sports. The participants feel like they are part of something bigger. Their problems are halved when shared and their triumphs doubled. At least that’s how it CAN go, if parents stay out of it.
If you’re a parent of an athlete, you have two jobs: show up and be supportive. That’s it! Anything else muddies the waters and messes with the lesson.
I have a great friend who was a national champion swimmer and still coaches with her husband. Last Olympics, one of their swimmers went to London. For team sports, that’s the pinnacle; but it’s very rare! My coach buddy says, “High School sports are transformative”. Your kid will probably not go to the Olympics, but they can be transformed by being on a team…if you let them.
I have witnessed this transformation with my daughter’s volleyball team. I am the life coach for the team. I help with the mental development, while the athletic coach handles the physical part. It’s beyond magical to witness the growth of these girls. When the school year started, the freshmen were terrified. They were worried about fitting in, handling homework and letting their teammates down. After many impromptu group sessions and a few organized talks, I could see them settle down. They felt the groove that happens when a group of like-minded people pull together for a shared goal. This is the team sports version of Pride Power.
Now when I walk in the gym, I hear shouts of “Mama T!” and see big smiles where once there were downcast eyes and silence. This blossoming wasn’t about me or my wacky safari suit. It was about the girls’ realization that they have found their Pride—both on and off the court. They have found their support system. As parents, all we need to do is tell them, “I love to watch you play. I don’t care if you’re winning or losing. I just love to watch you play!”
Anything else we say erodes the magic. When we interfere, we are making it about us. It’s not about us. It’s their experience, for better or worse. Let them have it. If you can just be a cheerleader for your teen, then they will find the home I found at the stables. They will have an experience that will restore their faith in themselves, a necessity if they want to reach their goals. They will learn to ask for help and celebrate, or commiserate, as a Pride. In the process, they will heal the rifts in Girl World.
This is why I keep showing up to practice, 4 days a week, sometimes for an hour, and sometimes for 15 minutes. I love to watch the girls move together as one. I love to see them high-fiving each other and giving each other grief in a playful way. This is the way Girl World is supposed to work. This is Pride Power in action. The love on that court is my Holy Grail. I show up because it underscores my belief that Pride Power can heal.
How do you show up for your kids?
How do you show up for yourself?
Tell me all about it in the comments below.
If you’re having trouble letting your inner stage mom sit tight in her bleacher seat, then check out my Girl Power for Good mother/daughter coaching packages.