Youth sports parents have a challenging job raising an athlete together, but the job is twice as hard for single parents. Parental involvement in youth sports is crucial to physical and social development, so single parents must still be 100% invested in their child’s chosen sport. Here are seven of the biggest challenges single parents face when raising young athletes.
1. Scheduling Conflicts
A busy schedule is the main challenge single youth sports parents face. A total of 13 million American workers have two jobs just to make ends meet and a significant portion of them are single parents. With two jobs, keeping up with a kid’s sports schedule is extremely difficult. You have to take them to practices, games and team-building activities.
Single parents often have to ask other parents on the team for help with transportation. Carpooling isn’t bad, but it takes away valuable bonding time between single parents and their children. Scheduling conflicts reduce the effectiveness of parental involvement in youth sports.
2. Equipment Affordability Issues
Another logistical challenge single parents face when raising athletes is the equipment costs. If your child plays a sport with lots of equipment like football, baseball or hockey, you could spend hundreds of extra dollars throughout the season. Most single parents don’t have the financial flexibility to make room for sports equipment.
In some unfortunate cases, youth sports parents have to make their kids switch to more affordable sports. Soccer and basketball are the most common youth sports in low-income communities for this reason. Many children with single parents don’t have the same opportunities as kids with both parents simply because of affordability issues.
3. Getting too Emotionally Invested
Single parents naturally feel the need to compensate for the other parent’s missing presence, which means they can get too emotionally invested in their kids. This behavior becomes even more common when you add sports to the picture. Youth sports parents get into fights with each other all the time because they get too caught up in the heat of the moment.
Fear of injury is another reason parents get too emotionally invested — especially single parents. Protecting children with just one guardian is harder, so they tend to be overprotective and overbearing. Single parents can solve their irrational fears and develop healthier emotional reactions by staying calm, staying mindful and putting more trust in their kids’ athletic abilities.
4. Showering Children With False Praise
One of the main symptoms of too much emotional investment is showering your children with false praise. Single parents can make this mistake as a way of overcompensating for the other parent’s absence.
A healthy amount of praise can reinforce good behavior, but too much praise breeds a sense of entitlement. It can also cause kids to develop impostor syndrome and make them feel like they don’t deserve it. Either way, too much praise is a bad thing. Single youth sports parents must be careful to avoid spoiling their children.
5. Having Unrealistic Expectations
On the opposite end of the spectrum, single parents can develop unrealistic expectations for their kids and be too harsh. This behavior is typical with parental involvement in youth sports because many parents try to live vicariously through their children. They hope the child can reach the professional level, which results in too much pressure.
Kids can develop social anxiety from parents who have lofty athletic expectations. Approximately 9% of adolescents have social anxiety and face a crippling fear of being judged or embarrassed by others. In a competitive sports environment, this anxiety can cause severe distress. Single parents must be careful not to overburden their children with too much pressure to succeed.
6. Overlooking Soft Skill Development
Another issue with parental involvement in youth sports is the lack of emphasis on soft skill development. Two-parent families are guilty of this mistake, too, but it happens to single parents more often because they have to do the same amount of parenting with one less person. It can be easy to overlook your child’s social skills and focus too much on their athletic performance.
Fortunately, other physical activities develop kids’ soft skills besides sports. You can take them on nature walks and teach them how to coexist with their environment. Sing, dance, play musical instruments, cook, tell stories and do all kinds of productive things to improve your child’s interpersonal skills.
7. Failing to Connect With Coaches
Single parents can also have trouble connecting with their kids’ coaches. Between driving the children around, getting equipment and fulfilling other parenting responsibilities, it’s easy to forget about connecting with the team’s coach. Coaches are essential parental figures in kids’ lives too, so they need to be on the same page with the team’s moms and dads.
You don’t have to become the coach’s best friend, but you should at least form a friendly relationship with them. Talk to them after practices and games. Ask about your child’s behavior during practices when you’re not around. Be allies for each other so your kid can grow into a well-rounded athlete and human being.
Stop Trying to Be Two Parents
There’s no denying single parents are at a huge disadvantage compared to two-parent households. However, that doesn’t mean you should try to be two parents at once. You can’t overload yourself or your child with too much baggage. Single youth sports parents might encounter these seven challenges throughout the season, but you can overcome them by tempering your expectations and getting help from other parental figures.