After sharing my article on the importance of youth team sports, I was approached by Michael Franks, a father of two, retired coach, and a child of a single parent home. He had a few thoughts on the subject, specifically from the view of a child growing up in a single parent home.
I wanted to share his thoughts here:
I grew up in a single parent home and a lot of the influence I received early on was from my basketball coaches. I learned about discipline, humility and how to respect authority like coaches and referees, as well as my teammates and opponents.
While my coaches merely reinforced the messages mom was teaching me at home, the team and sport format made them much easier for me to understand.
Individuality and Support
Youth sports also gave me a sense of individuality. They helped me learn about myself that, now looking back, I realize was one of the best things about being a part of a team and competing against others with similar goals. I learned how to interact with kids that I never would have spoken to in other circumstances. I met kids and developed relationships that I still have today.
From my experience coaching, I’ve also learned that youth sports can help make kids (as well as parents) feel like they are a part of something bigger; it can help give them a sense of belonging.
When you’re young, sometimes it can feel as if you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and coping isn’t easy. Being around kids your own age that are going through the same thing you are, can make you feel a little less alone. Winning/losing, homework, puberty, peer pressure, it can all be overwhelming for kids who do not have the proper support at home.
I believe quality youth coaches can give that kind of support and advice to a kid who may not know where to find it otherwise.
The Parent Plays a Different Role
Another one of the most overlooked advantages of youth sports in single parent homes is that it gives the parent an opportunity to be a cheerleader, not just the disciplinarian. It reminds kids that their parents are with them, not against them.
I often tell the kids on my team that one of the best things about practice is that they don’t have to worry about homework, chores or any other responsibilities. They just get to play ball. Likewise for the parents, they get to cheer for their child, without competing distractions and obligations.
What is better for a parent than sitting down for an hour, uninterrupted, and watching their kids grow by doing something they love to do? Sports give us that.
The Youth Coach
I honestly can’t remember the name of any of my youth coaches, but I can say that the lessons those men taught me stick with me to this day. I think that is the best role that a youth coach can play.
As I talked about this with friends I realized that youth sports, as a coach and as a player, have touched almost every single aspect of my life. While I understand the importance of winning, I also understand the much more important and potential role I may have in an athlete’s life as a resource for guidance and support.
Youth sports have given me a platform to educate and teach life skills to those from both single and multiple parent homes.
Did you grow up in a single parent home and play youth sports? If so, what role did your coaches and teammates play for you?