The small things my Mom did added up to big-time support

Looking back at our experiences as youth athletes, my brother Scott and I probably have one word to sum things up: Lucky.

Seriously, we were lucky to have a mother who supported us in each of our athletic endeavors. Regardless of the time commitment – for her, mostly – or the successes and failures we might have had, Mom was simply always there for us.

We grew up in perhaps a more traditional sports family. My father was more active in the coaching and criticism, helping us with our inner drive to succeed. But what my Mom did was just as important.

I know she cringed every time we played a sport where we risked physical injury, especially football. But she didn’t outwardly show it.

She was there, at the games. She was there, with breakfast, lunch or dinner, before and after practices and games. She was there, driving us to and from everything, making sure we were always on time.

My brother Scott seems to remember that the little things Mom did back when we were kids now make such a big impression.

“Mom was always supportive, no matter the outcome of game or how we played,” Scott said to me recently. “She always made us a healthy breakfast or lunch, no matter how busy she was. Even if it was between running back and forth to work.”

Given our Mom’s role in our growth as athletes, I have some thoughts on what mothers can do as their children climb the athletic ladder. In some ways, these tidbits of advice are for both parents. I know that today many parents have roles and responsibilities that change and overlap. So, here goes:


  1. Learn the sport. Show your child you are taking  an interest by attending games and some of the practices. Know the rules and try to learn a little bit about your child’s specific position or responsibility on the field. You can have better interaction with your child about the games and practices if you can understand more of what he or she is talking about.
  2. Be punctual. It’s a great life lesson. Some time in their lives, children need to realize they have to be on time. Many mothers play chauffeur, so make sure your child arrives early for all practices and games.
  3. Support the coach and the league. It’s not uncommon for players and parents to become at odds with a coach or a league. Before you sign your child to play, find out a little about the coach and the organization. If you don’t feel comfortable with all aspects of the program, find another team and organization. Once your child signs up, be supportive. If you do have an issue with the coach or the program, take it up in private, away from your child’s ear. Once a child thinks that a parent doesn’t respect the coach, there’s a good chance the child won’t respect the coach.
  4. Hide your fear. Don’t tell your child you’re afraid for her or him because the sport is to physically demanding.  Many sports have inherent physical risk.  It is natural to try to protect your child. But you probably hurt them more when you project your fears to your children. Participants need to learn to play hard and give their very best. In my experience as a coach and mentor, the timid athlete is frequently the one who most often gets hurt.
  5. Sports teach life lessons. This is true only if you make it so. One of the best lessons I learned as a child was when I was 6 years old.  I wanted to participate in every sport I could, so I had my parents sign me up for both football and soccer during the same season.  When my schedule of practices and games became too much to handle, I wanted to quit soccer.  My parents explained that once I committed to both sports it was my duty to finish the season and remain accountable to my teams and teammates.  I finished the season, playing in all games and making all practices for both teams. The concept of commitment is something that has stuck with me for a lifetime.