The first day our daughter put a volleyball in her hands at age 10 and played at the YMCA we knew she found her sport.
She fell hard and fast for a game my husband and I knew very little about. While we knew she loved it, we had no idea the journey we were about to embark on with her and her sport: the cities we’d travel to, the teams she became a part of, the school ball, the injuries, the triumph, and the tears.
We learned (and still are learning) that supporting your student athlete takes more from your basic parenting starter pack, you definitely need to purchase the upgrade.
If you’re like us and figuring this out as you go, let me help with some tips I’ve picked up along the last seven years of volleyball transitioning from an after school activity to my daughter’s passion.
I write this as I sit in a hotel in another state sipping on coffee and waiting for the minute, I can pick our girl up from a college volleyball camp she was invited to.
I write this on the heels of an eight-week long adventure of four out of state travel tournaments and (now) knowing she had a broken ankle the whole time (see tip #2 below to avoid this).
Tell your child they are doing great!
Encourage the good stuff they do on and off the court.
When they hit a certain level, believe me, their coach will do the coaching. They will work with the mistakes.
Be your child’s safe place to not talk about the missed hits. Be the place to fill them with all the good stuff. Most athletes know what they did wrong. They are hard enough on themselves.
Be the encourager; give them a big hug and to say “You are amazing!”
Listen to your child’s complaints of aches and pains.
Take this from someone who let her daughter play on a broken foot for two months because it was the end of the season and we had nationals and I was sure it’s just another sprain.
So many times we would go in and her injury would be minimal. I believed it was the same situation. I will feel terrible about this forever. I am forgiven but still, the mom guilt is playing on repeat in my head.
It is better to get the X-Ray and it be nothing than not get it and it be something. And on this same note, understand that Sports Medicine, Physical Therapists and injury prevention specialists are part of the team. It’s important to know that caring for their bodies is part of this gig.
Similarly, listen to them about how they are feeling mentally
The higher they get in competition, the harder it can be on their mental state. Some kids thrive on intensity, others it can fill them with anxiety.
The pendulum can swing widley in all directions and you really need to know how they are handling the pressure.
There are sports therapists that I highly recommend looking into. This can be a safe place to learn real coping methods and a safe zone to share openly things your child might not feel comfortable sharing with you. This part of supporting your athlete is vital.
They are hungry, and I mean all the time, hungry. They need to be fed and fed well.
This is still a challenge for me, our daughter is better than I am at this, but keep good proteins, good hydration aides, and healthy snacks on-hand that are easily accessible.
Training hard and proper nutrition should go hand and hand for everyone, but most especially athletes and growing ones at that.
Be prepared for the costs
Sports can become very expensive. Know your budget and what you can afford. If you have a talented kid, don’t be shy to ask about scholarships.
Ask grandparents/extended family for additional support. Don’t put your family’s livelihood at risk. Know your budget, be realistic about it and stay within it.
Always revert back to tip #1
Seriously. Always go back to tip #1 when in doubt.
Remember that volleyball camp I mentioned she’s at as I write this? I think of how wildly brave she is for choosing this camp knowing no one and staying in the dorms and walking into the unknown. I write this thinking of all the ways we didn’t know how to support her in the beginning.
We didn’t know any of the things I shared above until about 4 years into this. All we knew was rule #1. And rule #1 lead us to supporting her in all these other ways, eventually.
Supporting your student athlete will be the way they succeed. Be there for them. You are their biggest fan from the day they took their first blessed step and you will be long after the lights are turned off in the stadium.
They may never say anything, they may roll their eyes, they may act like they don’t love the way you cheer for them but believe me they do. They really, really do.