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.
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!