Tips for Parents

Sports have always been a big part of my life. Growing up in Nebraska, fall meant football, and it was everything to win that week’s game! While I enjoyed playing basketball, I absolutely loved football.

During each practice, we learned much about each other — and about life. We talked about each other’s family, and over time, we became a family. We learned to count on each other to do the job our position required, building trust in others. We learned patience, seeing others work on their athleticism and techniques. In our office, we often say how you can’t “unlearn” the skills taught during those years. Ain’t that the truth.

It will come as no surprise that I’m concerned that so many parents are pulling their kids from sports. Youth sports are at an all-time low in America and at the same time, we have the highest rate ever of childhood obesity, and more kids are leading sedentary lifestyles. It’s not just the soft-skills taught in these years that we should be considering; it’s the healthy future of our kids.

Football has gotten most of the pressure, yet in all sports, there are risks of an injury. How can we encourage kids to stay in sports such as football and still feel like we’re doing the best job possible as parents?

First, find out what interests them. Football, basketball, volleyball, whatever it is, and have a conversation about what they’d like to do. This often means trying out a few sports, seeing what they are good at doing. It doesn’t happen overnight, and worth the time spent!

Meet with the coach or athletic director at their school. Ask them questions about the program’s safety, finding out more about protocols they are using after an injury. Ask tough questions about how they are creating a culture of safety, one that ensures kids are safe to discuss injuries without judgment or bullying from other players.

Talk to other parents. There are groups on Facebook that may offer a quick view of the culture at your school, and that’s helpful. I would say you should try to meet with parents as well, such as going to a game and striking up a conversation. They’re on the front lines and can offer lots of insight!

Do the research online. Check out what others in the industry are doing to protect their players, and become familiar with the language they are using. As parents, it is up to us to do our homework. Whether it’s getting behind the wheel of a car or playing sports, we know our kids are at risk of an injury. It’s up to us to support each other with the facts and thus offering our kids the best chance to get the lessons we want them to learn in their early years.

My father was a teacher and coach, and my identical twin (yes, there are two of us!) and I were lucky to have his leadership guiding us. He stressed the fun we’d have if we got involved, and pushed us in positive ways to stay the course. As parents, that’s what we all should hope to provide for our kids.