I’m not talking about you, fellow sports parents. I’m talking about your children.
My son is probably overly observant for a child his age. He is very much into “looking the part” of an athlete. This isn’t a bad thing. When he feels like he looks like his favorite athletes, he gets more into what he is doing.
Do you remember playing hockey, football, or baseball in your yards and driveways growing up pretending you were Barry Bonds hitting a homerun or Mario Lemieux scoring a game winning goal? You felt on top of the world! (Even if the 66 on your shirt was written in marker and not because you had an actual jersey.)
My son gets that same feeling from dressing like his favorite players. I’ve found a few ways to use this to my advantage in making preparing him for playing sports easier and for helping keep your kid more safe.
Jordan starts baseball in a month. For his birthday back in January, my brother and I purchased his equipment: a glove, a bat, some wiffle balls to practice with. When I had him at Dick’s Sporting Goods trying on different gloves to find one that fit his hand, he spotted the Rawlings sunglasses He put them on and smiled. “Mom. Do I look like Cutch [Andrew McCutchen]?”
He wanted those glasses so bad. Why? Because his favorite baseball player, Andrew McCutchen has those glasses. I surprised him with the glasses, a bat bag, and Nike sweat bands later. Now he will look like a baseball player which means he will feel like a baseball player and thus try harder. That’s how he is. He feels like a big leaguer.
Now, one of the trials of being a hockey parent is getting your kid’s equipment on. Getting a 5 year old to sit still for any period of time, let alone to fully dress him and tape him up for hockey, is a battle. He isn’t a fan of wearing his Under Armour and Reebok cold gear, but once again, this is where I used the big time players to my advantage.
“Oh man, Jord. James Neal and Geno wear this stuff.” I got him to put on the Under Armour prior to leaving for the rink because I made him feel like one of the pros. I even completed his look with a baseball cap and a pair of basketball shorts over his cold gear to wear to the rink. Not only did this save me some time getting him dressed once we got to the rink, but all he talked about on the way to the rink was how he looked like James Neal.
So let’s review a list of things I have found that I (and any parent) can do that will make your kid excited and help you get them ready for the sport they love:
1. When they resist wearing equipment that is essential to their safety, show them how the pro’s do it. Show them videos and photos. Youtube and team websites are your best friend!
2. Get them ready as much as you can prior to leaving for the rink. This allows for time for those last minute potty breaks and talks with the other kids while they are getting their equipment on and still keeps you on track.
3. You don’t have to buy the most expensive items to make your kid look and feel like a pro. Kids outgrow clothing FAST. Hand-me-down player jerseys, shirts, and hoodies from relatives and friends are a blessing. We inherited a TON of Under Armour and hoodies from a friend of the family. Also, get a Dick’s Sporting Goods rewards card. Their clearance racks are great, especially at the end of a sport’s season for getting player apparel. You’ll be able to find player shirts for under $5. The Nike, Reebok, Under Armour, and Adidas outlets also have great deals so shop around and look online for coupons. Also, cold gear can be bought a little big so you will get more wear out of it.
4. Make a playlist! Do you have certain songs or bands you listen to when you are working out? I know I do. My son has a list of favorite songs. We listen to those songs on the way to the rink. It gets him pumped up!
5. SAFETY FIRST. I see entirely too many kids wearing jeans under their pads on the ice and on the dek or they aren’t wearing proper athletic shoes. If you cannot afford Nikes or Reeboks, Payless has Champion brand shoes cheap and they will give your kid better ankle support than a pair of Transformer light up shoes. WalMart’s Garanimals brand of clothing is awesome if you need athletic shorts and sweatpants. Target also has really nice athletic apparel for kids (and adults) at affordable prices. It is better to have them in clothing that will allow more free and natural movement. You can get sweats for $3. Your kid will be warmer and less prone to injury. Don’t send your kid in jeans onto the ice.
6. They like what they like. One thing I have never told my son is what teams and players he can or cannot like. He has apparel from sports teams outside of Pittsburgh. The other day, he asked for a Bruins shirt. Why not? It isn’t hurting anything. Just because you hate a particular team, player, or color, it isn’t an excuse to to ruin your child’s fun and imagination. Not having enough cash is one thing, but being a Nazi over something that they will decide for themselves over time is another. Besides, someone has to be the opposition when they’re playing with their friends!
Being a sports parent comes with a lot of responsibilities, but the biggest one, is making sure your child is having a good time! So indulge him or her a little and let them wear some eye black.