So there I was. I had two tweens, both involved in a sport I never played.
Finding My Role
In the beginning, my kids asked me for soccer tips. How do you strike a ball? What defensive drills can we do in the yard? How do you aim for the high corners when shooting? Because it is a sport where I have zero experience, my advice was "Um...ask your coach or look up videos?" I could pass the ball with the kids, but that was about it.
In a game, I was truly watching from the sidelines. In the first years my kids played, I often could rarely offer more than a generic "Good job!" after a game. When my daughter was nine, I sometimes stood on the sidelines of the field, thinking about the knowledge I could have shared, if only she had picked swimming.
When my son was ten, I watched other parents give their own kids pointers. I also watched two groups of parents get kicked off the sidelines for yelling at their own kids—and that's when I had my own personal epiphany.
While it's true I can't coach my kids and help them improve, my job is to think they are awesome. For the hours they are on the field, I get to be amazed by their skill, grit and grace.
Learning to Love Their Sport
There's something unique about watching my kids excel in a sport I can't play. I'm definitely more tolerant of mistakes. After all, everyone on the field makes mistakes; they're kids and they're learning—and I certainly couldn't do any better. Good game or bad, what I see is hard work and persistence, and improvement as they master skills I lack.
Having less knowledge of their sport allows me to focus on my child rather than the sport. I can't offer technical tips, so my questions tend to be personal. Why do you love to play? What's your favorite position and why? What do you think about when you play? I've learned that my daughter loves the smell of turf and the sound of a ball hitting the back of the net. I've learned that my son feels driven to lead the team, but also enjoys the anonymity of being just one of eleven players.
In the end, I've learned more about my kids by knowing less about their sport. It's given them an opportunity to embrace something wholly for themselves.
And really, what could be better than that?
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