Youth Sports Mom & Grandma
My sports mom is now a sports grandma.

My mom was a sports mom before they were called sports moms. But unlike many sports moms of today, she didn’t bring homemade snacks or make custom t-shirts. Instead, she taught, coached, and encouraged through sports. For her, sports are all about developing character, and I think her perspective is as important as ever for young athletes and their parents today.

My mom is a beloved retired teacher and coach, and was even inducted into the Hall of Fame at the high school where I graduated. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to not have to call her Mrs. Flint or Coach Flint over the years, but mom. Plus, I’m an only child, which makes our bond even more special.

So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I want readers to hear directly from my mom. We compiled a list of 5 important truths for sports moms based on the biggest lessons she’s taught me, her students, and her athletes over the years.

Here’s the list. Written by my mom, Mary Flint:

5 Important Truths for Sports Moms

#1 – There’s more to a game than winning or losing.

“Sports moms and dads are all guilty of asking players, “Did you win your game?”. Instead, I would suggest asking, “What was the best thing you did in your game?”. It’s an easy reframing that can have a big impact on a young athlete.

I have gotten some wonderful responses from kids about the defensive play they made, how they hit the ball instead of striking out, how they ran really fast to first, or how they cheered on a teammate. Much better responses than, “We lost.”” 

#2 – It’s not all about playing time.

“Karen and I frequently reminisce about how she saw her senior year of high school softball as her BEST year. It was the year she had game winning hits, pitched well, and earned all-area recognition in the local newspaper. That’s what she remembers.

You know what I remember about that year? Parents of other players asking me if I was disappointed that Karen didn’t play more. Her game winning hits came as a pinch hitter. She was not our #1 pitcher. She didn’t see the field every inning of every game. But, she sees that season as a highlight of her career. For us, it was never about playing time. It was about her role on the team.

Sports moms must remember that role players are important on every team. How you, as a parent, approach playing time and roles will shape your child’s attitude and responses. That season, Karen won games for us by making the most of her time on the field and never complained about it. Her dad and I supported whatever role she had.

A player’s effort, attitude, willingness to learn, and positive interaction with teammates will determine playing time. Focusing on these four things is sure to improve a player’s skills and gain them more playing time. Coaches observe your child in practice, on the bench, and sometimes on the bus. What the parent sees in a game is important, but coaches see them in all aspects of the sport.”

#3 – Not every game is a good game. 

“Karen frequently talks about when she would walk out of the locker room in high school after a tough loss and other parents would console their kids, telling them “good game”. I would do my best to encourage, but I did not always say good game. There were plenty of games that were simply not good. 

By always telling your child how perfectly they played or how great they did, the meaning of the words “good game” are diminished. Sports moms should save their best compliments for when their child truly played a “good game”. Those words will be cherished forever coming from mom.”

#4 – Appreciate the opportunity to play sports.

“When I graduated from Monticello High School in 1972, there were NO girls sports. I would have played them all, but never had the chance. There were few youth sports for boys and none for girls. 

As sports moms today, help your children appreciate the chance to wear their school’s/team’s name on their jersey. Cherish the fact that your child has the opportunity to have family, friends, and coaches celebrating victories and learning from losses together.”

#5 – Encourage kids to be positive leaders.

“This is my best advice, and it’s probably what my daughter, my students and my players heard the most from me. Be a positive leader. Encourage your child to be someone who gives their best effort, has a great attitude and always tries to be better than the day before. Praise them when they support their teammates, and model that same behavior. Parents and players can be positive leaders, and it can have a big impact on a team.”

Youth Sports
5th grade YMCA basketball (1993)

As a sports mom myself now (even though some days I still feel like I’m the one in 5th grade), I find myself going back to these truths frequently. In the youth sports world today, parents can quickly fall into the trap of worrying about playing time, coaching decisions, or one bad game. It’s more important that we use sports to teach and encourage, remembering there are life lessons around every corner for our children. 

And if I could add one more important truth for sports moms? Cherish the games where you sit on the sidelines with sports grandmas. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Karen and her husband Neil live in Moline with their 11-year-old son, Grant. The Dahlstroms are active Quad Citizens and enjoy all the area has to offer (especially hiking, biking, eating and sports!). Karen loves connecting with other women and swapping stories about parenting, friendships and life. She's a mentor with Lead(h)er and is also an active volunteer with the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women movement and the John Deere Classic.


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