Parents as the Cornerstone of Sport

I am not the only one who counts her dad as her "biggest fan". Thanks so all the great parents who make youth sports a reality. Photo credit: Lorne White.

I am not the only one who counts her dad as her "biggest fan". Thanks so all the great parents who make youth sports a reality. Photo credit: Lorne White.

Apparently there is a week for everything now….but this is an important one because it is “Parents in Sport Week”.  I feel like it hits me hard in the heart from several perspectives: as an athlete with outstanding “sport parents”, as a coach with fantastic “sport parents”, and as a future “sport parent”.

So here’s a big collective thank you to all the parents that make sports possible for their kids and who allow their kids to be fit, active, healthy and learn important life lessons through sport.

Without caring and involved parents, sport would love a lot different than it is today….who would sit in the stands and cheer? Who would bring sliced oranges for half time? Who would pay the fees, buy the equipment, register the kid in lessons and clubs? Who would wipe the tears away or offer the big congratulatory hugs?

Parents, as much as the athletes, coaches and administrators are the cornerstone of youth sport. 

My parents are the perfect blend of support and unconditional love: they made sure I could get to practices and competitions, but let me take the lead on my goals.  They didn’t care how fast I ran, or how many races I won, or if I won a scholarship. However, they did care that I learned life skills, such as being a good sportsman and being respectful to coaches, teammates and competitors.

I am willing to put money on the fact that my mom has no idea what more than maybe one of my personal best performances are in either running, road racing or triathlon.  She always cared more about the values of sport, and she used my love of sport as one of her parenting weapons.  Once upon a time, she even made me call a faster teammate when I beat her the first time – just to make sure she was not too upset.  My mom always cared more about people’s feelings than the outcome – and it has often given me pause in life to consider what my words or actions may have on another (I guess this is also called “good parenting”!).

Even though I am way past living under my parents’ roof, they are still awesome and supportive with my sports – helping me with childcare and logistics so I can continue to pursue my training and racing dreams, and my coaching.  They wait by the phone after my races, both answering at the same time to bombard me with questions. I have started smiling (sometimes a fake, tired smile) when I cross the finish line in Ironman races because I know my Dad is watching. And if I look too tired or upset, he will worry until I call him. I have also started giving him a secret signal to let him know I know he is watching.

As a coach, I am also very grateful for the amazing parents I work with.  First of all – they send respectful, hard working and really funny kids to hang out with me multiple times a week, which is one of the highlights of my day.  They are also model “Sport Parents” and not the stereotypical sport-parents who push their children hard and try to micromanage the coaches.   I am so grateful that they trust me to act in the best interest of their kid(s) and help their kid(s) enjoy running…as a lifestyle and as a competitive outlet.  One of the best gifts a parent give a child is room for the kid to grow through sport (and other life pursuits) and I am really fortunate to be part of this parent-coach-athlete relationship in the “coach capacity”.

As a parent, I will have big shoes to fill…both with having experienced model sport parents as a young and now “mature” athlete and as a coach working with young athletes.  I can’t wait to bring the oranges, wipe the tears and give the high 5s in years to come. 

So in celebration of “Parents in Sport Week"…a big thank you to the parents, far and wide, who provide the financial, logistical and emotional support for their kids to reap the benefits of being in organized sports!