Welp, you’ve gone and done it now. Someone asked you if you’d like to help out with your son or daughter’s team. Seemed innocent enough, “All I have to do is schedule a couple of parents to bring snacks. No big deal.” you think to yourself. Then your organization hands you a packet, or invites you to a team parent meeting. I’ve been there. Walking away from a meeting as a parent just starting out, young kids that just want to hit a ball off a tee. Suddenly your “no big deal” thoughts turns into “OMG! Did I just volunteer for that?”
First, breathe. You have done a great thing! You will be spending much needed time with your family, you’ll be helping an organization continue to run, hopefully at a high level…and…with the right attitude and a little patience, it’s going to be an enjoyable and fulfilling use of your time. Here are a few things to think about as you embark on your new journey of soccermom-hood (or football mom, baseball dad, cheer dad, track mom…)
- You are going to get to know these kids in ways you could never imagine. There are kids who I’ve watch grow from being knee high to a grasshopper into giant 6 foot tall linebackers. They are all my kids. Some of them call me mom even though they are now seniors in high school. You get to be a part of that, not only with your children, but with an entire community of children.
- You will learn patience. Parents and guardians are busy! We’re all busy. We’re working, we are shuttling kids to and from practices, juggling household chores while trying to figure out how to get dinner on the table, and not to mention showers, homework and bed at a decent hour. All of the parents on the team are going through similar experiences, remember that. Stay calm and send yet another email thanking those who have already paid for their players team socks, and remind the others of your deadline. Then do it again. And again. And again.
- Communication. Not only is communication critical, but you’ll learn what it really truly means. Often volunteers nod their heads in agreement at this one; but what does effective communication actually look like? Emails are great, social media is great, text messages are great, but you have to do what’s right for your team. I suggest utilizing a couple of tools that are at your disposal. Not all parents are on computers all day at work looking at email, nor are all parents glued to their phone. Additionally, there’s no substitute for just being around. Be at practices, games and events early and leave late. Make an effort to say hello to each and every parent. Even that dad who hides up in the corner of the bleachers during the game. This is what makes parents and others comfortable with engaging with you.
- Keep a calm & positive attitude. Seems easy enough, but sometimes it’s not so easy. For example, if you are having a losing season concentrate on the growth the team is having; find that silver lining. Don’t engage with the naysayers and complainers. When they engage with you, listen. You don’t have to agree, but listen. A quiet, “I understand what you are saying, why don’t you volunteer to help out with that next season?” goes a long way.
- Channel your inner politician. Sometimes it feels like you have are on the campaign trail, high-fiving every kid, kissing every baby, waving across the court. Some people are naturally good at this and some are not so naturally good at this. I have to admit, I’m a person riddled with anxieties and do not like to be in crowds. I definitely do not like to be the center of attention. I love planning and organizing to make those players season the best it can be. So, I practice, sometimes I have faked it. Now well after a decade, when I’m on a field or court somewhere, I’m at ease. It is no longer an effort to be happy and smiling. The field is my home and everyone there is family.
This job is going to be more than what other parents are doing. This job is going to suck up your time. There are going to be times when you are just annoyed with everything. Take a look at those kids. Every smile you see throughout the season, take that personally and log it as a thank you from the future adult-selves of those same kids. Keep focused on them, and have an outstanding season!