How to Help Your Homeschool Child Navigate Competitive Sports
The world of competitive sports for kids can be overwhelming. When homeschooling enters the equation, things can get interesting. You may have concerns about how you can help your homeschool child navigate competitive sports. With positive support and guidance from you, trust that your homeschool kid can thrive in a competitive sports setting.
As a homeschool soccer mom to 5 boys, I have lived and breathed the pressure and negativity of competitive sports. I played soccer from the age of 6 through college. My two older boys play competitive soccer at both cup and school levels. It can get nasty out there!
I am passionate about helping all families learn skills and practices that will make competitive sports positive experiences. Playing sports helped me learn valuable skills at both individual and interpersonal levels-and I see it helping my boys. It is my hope that sharing our stories, tips, and tricks will help your child successfully navigate competitive sports.
Competitive Sports in Our Family
Soccer is kind of a thing in our family. I like to say that my two older boys picked up their mama’s passion for the best sport in the world in the womb. It came as no surprise when they learned to kick a soccer ball soon after learning how to walk.
Each boy began playing recreational soccer as soon as possible. They were forces to be reckoned with on the field. Hubby and I knew that they would eventually play competitive soccer.
We did not know, however, that our boys would be homeschooled. Once we got settled into our homeschool routine, hubby and I wondered how the switch to homeschooling might affect their soccer experiences. Would homeschooling make our boys:
- Too shy?
- Unable to handle confrontation?
- Backwards around other kids?
- Afraid of asserting themselves on and off the field?
- Live in a bubble and not know how to navigate real-life situations?
Ultimately, hubby and I agreed that receiving a quality home education trumped all. But, our boys were passionate about soccer and wanted to pursue it as far as they could. How could we help them navigate competitive sports and continue to homeschool?
We found that we could by using positive practices and support-and hope that our experiences help you.
How Homeschoolers Can Navigate Competitive Sports
Homeschooling is not popular in our area. My boys are often the only homeschoolers on their team. They field quite a few questions, ranging from “But, why?” to “Will your mom homeschool me?”. That one always makes me giggle! I have enough boys to homeschool, thank-you-very-much!
Once my boys get over the hurdle of questions, they have to deal with the differences. My boys are not exposed on a daily basis to many of the things that public school kids are. Nasty words. Negative peer pressure that leads to disrespect for adults and other kids. Sneaky ways of getting around rules.
These are all things that we are happy to avoid. And contribute to why we homeschool.
Yet, my boys still need to deal with these negatives.
Bullying-physical and psychological.
Criticism. Comparison. Cut throatedness (is that a word?). Ostracism.
Yeah, it sucks.
Through it all, my boys deal. They handle the negative. Pressure rolls off their backs.
My boys have learned invaluable life lessons that have helped them grow and mature far beyond what I ever imagined they would at their ages.
If you ask my boys how they are able to handle these negatives, they provide you with a one-word answer: Homeschool.
Homeschooling has provided my boys with a positive environment that cultivates critical thinking and adaptive skills. My boys are able to exercise creative thought and independent thinking that transfers into positive decision making. Most of all, my boys know that they can talk to me about anything and know that I will support them 100%.
Let these benefits remind you of how homeschool CAN be a positive influence in the lives of your children. We often allow fears to take seed and grow due to societal pressures and misconstrued doubts. It’s easy to fall into the worry trap and stress if your homeschool child can handle some of life’s nastier situations. Just know this: your homeschool child CAN navigate competitive sports-and you can help them!
6 Effective Ways to Help Your Homeschool Child Navigate Competitive Sports
If you would like to help your homeschool child navigate competitive sports, my #1 tip is to keep the line of communication open. Your child will be facing unique situations and will need your support. Also, teach and model assertive communication skills that your child can use when necessary.
1. Don’t feed the negative.
There’s a whole lot of negative out there in the world today. It’s extremely sad. Parents, coaches, and players can be downright cruel. But, that doesn’t mean you and your kids have to contribute to it!
Stand firm in your values and beliefs. Use great books and activities to help your kids learn from you. And be an excellent role model who uses positive behaviors and encouraging words for all.
I, for one, avoid the negative by sitting away from other spectators. The constant commentary and criticism wear me thin. To combat the negative, I make it point to stay as positive as possible-even if our team is getting crushed. I remind myself (and my boys) that it’s all about the process, not necessarily the result. Learn what you can from the experience and use that knowledge to help you in the future.
2. Be supportive.
Cheer for your kids and other players-on both sides. Focus on the positive and effort. Don’t get sucked up into the negative.
Acknowledge your child’s thoughts and feelings. Be there for them. Listen to their stories, discuss troublesome situations, and brainstorm positive solutions.
For example, my boys and I have marvelous conversations in the van on the way to and from soccer events. These rides give my boys plenty of time to process any concerns they have prior to the event and talk through specific situations on the way home. My boys feel comfortable talking to me because I strive to be as nonjudgmental as possible. Instead of feeding them answers, I let them hash it out. They are often able to arrive at a positive solution on their own.
3. Educate yourself and your child.
Learn and use positive thinking techniques, including affirmations for homeschool kids. Learn and practice assertive communication in your family and homeschool.
When my boys become overly critical of themselves, I make them stop their thinking in their tracks. With a bit of conversation and practice, my boys have developed positive reframing skills that they can apply to competitive sports, academics, and life. For example, Professor is his own worst critic. He used to only see the one “bad” play that he made in a game. Through the use of affirmations and reframing, he is now able to acknowledge his mistake without it overshadowing all the positive.
Assertiveness skills have been critical in helping Captain navigate competitive sports. After learning and practice strong “I” statements, he has been able to peacefully fight back against bullying in both psychological forms and physical threats. From these horrible experiences, Captain has emerged stronger and more self-assured.
4. Be realistic.
Help your child set realistic goals. While you want to be encouraging and supportive, you don’t want to fluff up your child beyond what is possible. Your child just might be awesome out on the field. That doesn’t mean they will win every ball or have a perfect game every single time.
Talk with your child in realistic terms about their performance. Some kids have an inflated sense of self; others are way too self-critical. Balance out their tendencies to help them better navigate competitive sports.
Your young athlete will have unique situations that require a custom approach. Keep it simple, realistic, positive, and authentic.
5. Don’t hover.
Don’t be a helicopter parent. Or try to put them in a bubble. It’s hard enough to navigate competitive sports without a parent being overprotective.
Your child may need to learn how to deal on their own. You have provided your child with an amazing home education environment, one that I’m sure is filled with awesome experiences. Let them stretch their assertiveness and grow. You will be amazed at what they are able to accomplish!
I know how hard it is to stand back and let your baby be criticized or pushed beyond what you think their limits are. Let them surprise you. A situation that you may think is totally horrible may be viewed as your child as just part of the process. Remember: it’s about your child, not you 😉
6. Know when to step in.
Bullying and threats (physical and/or mental) are NEVER okay. If your child reports a situation to you, gather as much information as you can. If you determine the situation to be an urgent emergency, immediately talk to a coach, club president, or another official. The #1 most important thing is your child’s safety.
If the situation is not deemed urgent, it can be helpful to check in with other parents and kids. Sometimes, a situation is misinterpreted and can be handled without raising a dozen red flags.
You CAN help your homeschool child successfully navigate competitive sports. As always, customize your approach to best fit the needs of your child and family. If you are so blessed, talk with other homeschool families in your area to see how they dealt with similar situations.
I applaud you for taking the time to look into helping your homeschool child navigate competitive sports. Please leave any questions or concerns in the comments below and I will gladly provide whatever assistance I can 🙂 Best wishes & rock your homeschool-and competitive sports!
Very helpful, Amy! I love this ?
Thank you, Mary!
When do you find any time for anything else? We have 5 as well and they all play sports. We school them all day then spend the weekends and evenings running them to practices and watching their games. I have no time to get much of anything else done. I am tired and feel stretched thin and am coming up short in many areas such as finding time to exercise and showing interest in others outside of our family. Any advice on time management etc.?
Not Amy, but mom of 6 chiming in. I think you have to take an honest look at your family, your schedule, and what YOU can tolerate and manage effectively.
I really fell on my face this fall and had us signed up for TOO much. My K student was in away school 2 days a week, then I signed up my 3 bigs for cross country. (XC) Two days a week practice didn’t sound like much, but I forgot to account for the adjustment period for having Maeve in K. After about 4 weeks, I felt like I was drowning.We finished the season, but I’ve already made a mental note that we will NOT be doing that again.
I think it depends on ages, stages, season of life, etc. My little guy is not in anything scheduled. My 5 1/2 year old will be playing soccer this spring for the first time —because she’s asked for TWO YEARS to play. (my husband played soccer in high school and college, so it’s a given here!) My boys will be back in soccer after a hiatus, and they are playing baseball for the first time as well. (once again, they’ve asked to play for two years) It’s going to be nuts with kids playing two sports that overlap, but I also know the benefits from playing competitive sports.
It’s a juggling act, for sure. You can streamline things (siblings on same team when possible, pack picnic dinners to enjoy after practice), but I think it’s important to know when to wave the white flag as well.
Excellent points, Dianna! When we say yes to one thing, we have to say no to another. Reducing or limiting extracurricular activities is sometimes a must depending on your family’s situation. With a bit of planning and prep work, you can make it happen. But, you also have to ask yourself, “Can my family & I handle this stress right not?” and “How is this specific activity helping us reach our overall goal?”.
Tonya, I’m so glad you asked about time management. I’ll be sharing my tips & tricks for that very soon 🙂 For our family, I have taught my older boys to prepare & maintain their equipment & uniforms. They do their own laundry (because there’s such a pile with daily practices & games!). Also, I work with them on prioritizing their school work & they know they will not be allowed to attend practices or games if their work isn’t done (great motivator ;). Look for more tips soon!! And feel free to email me at [email protected] with specific questions-or leave them here!!
Wonderful! We also are a sports family; 6 kids, all play, some now playing in college. I have sat off by myself in the stands for years. I don’t want to hear the negativity. When others have tried to engage me in the negativity, especially about coaches, I tell them my philosophy… Do you trust the coach? Let him coach. If not, why are you here? Sports can teach us all such valuable lessons and life skills. Enjoy it!
Nicole, it’s like you took the words right out of my mouth! I love meeting other sports mom who emphasize respect & positivity 😉
Sports were really the only thing I was worried about my kids missing out on because they are homeschooled. I was athletic all through school and in college (soccer was my sport too), so I always wanted that for my kids, even before they were school age.
Since we ended up homeschooling, I had to actively look for athletic opportunities for my kids. It’s not too difficult when they are younger; many towns and cities have rec leagues for younger kids, usually only going up to 6th or 8th grade. But I wanted to find something that would allow my kids to play through high school if it was something they enjoyed and wanted to do. Individual sports are a great option for this, like golf or tennis or swimming.
But for us, it was hockey. They start hockey young in many areas, but you can play all the way through high school. My four oldest kids have all played (2 boys and 2 girls), but my oldest is the one with a passion and real talent for it. He has hopes and a real potential to play in the NCAA or beyond (and that’s a whole different kind of crazy when you are planning out their high school career and making sure they have all the courses required by and approved by the NCAA).
Anyways, I’ve rambled and written a book now. But the main thing I wanted to say is that my kids are often the only homeschooled kid on the team as well. It can be a little concerning about how the other kids (and even parents) are going to view us and what they are going to be exposed to in the locker room that we might want to avoid. Thankfully we have had for the most part a very positive experience and really haven’t had to navigate through any negativity.
Thank you for sharing and encouraging other homeschoolers that it IS possible to play competitive sports!
Hey Sarah! I’m so glad you haven’t had the negativity. I often wonder if it varies according to sport or location. Anyhoo, I feel like it’s a blessing & a curse that my boys can participate in sports at our local school. I know not all homeschoolers have that option (which is sad, in my opinion) but there is an exposure to almost a different world of thinking. Not that it’s bad-but can feel like a foreign land at first 😉 Best of luck to you & your kids-and I want to hear all about it when they do reach their goals!!