• Cathy B. Parker

Is there life beyond the ballfield?

To say that sports has played a huge roll in my family’s life is an understatement. My husband received his education at Vanderbilt University on an athletic (football) scholarship and played professionally even having the chance to play in the Super Bowl. Three of our four children received full college athletic scholarships: one played professionally in the MLB and one went from being a college athlete to a college coach.

There is no doubt that we prepared them well to be an athlete. We made sure that they never missed a practice, had every piece of equipment needed for their sport, and had the best trainers that we could find, and many times it was their dad.

The problem is that everyone, even the best athletes, play their last game. So all the time and effort perfecting their athletic skills comes to a screeching halt. Sometimes you know when that date is, like with our daughter who played her senior college season with a broken foot because she knew it was her last season to be a student-athlete. For some, playing days end with an injury or being released from a team or a decision is made not to play. Either way it happens, saying good-bye to what you have spent your life preparing for is very difficult.

How much did we prepare them (our children) for what lies ahead beyond the ballfield? This is a question that has plagued my husband and me as all four of our children have finished their playing days, finished college, and moved on to their careers.

We said to our children many times through the years, “Being an athlete is what you do, not who you are.” While those words were being said, sometimes, our actions made it hard to distinguish between playing ball and being a ball player.

These are a few of the things I have learned while navigating this uncharted territory of life beyond the ballfield with my children.

1). Give them praise for who they are not for what they do. I try to tell my kids often that I am proud of them. Just a simple text letting them know that I am thinking about them, praying for them and proud that they are mine, with no mention of performance.

2.) Don’t be afraid to get their input and let them know you don’t have it all figured out. I asked my 26-year-old son if I could ask him a series of questions to help me with my blog. Please note, I had to brace myself not to overreact or become offensive if he said something I didn’t like. I asked him if he thought we placed too much of an emphasis on sports while he was growing up. “No Mom, we played because we wanted to.” I also told him about things I wished I would have done differently. To my surprise, he didn’t even know what I was referring to which helped me to realize some of the regrets from the past need to be left in the past.

3.) Talk about plan A, B and C. My husband came home from the middle school football banquet and jokingly said, “we are going to have the best high school team in history in the next few years.” He said this because almost every middle school player said his goal was to play football in college (D1, of course) and then play in the NFL. All kids dream and that is not a bad thing, but talk about several options so if an injury or some other obstacle comes preventing them from achieving a goal, they will have some idea about where to turn next.

Realize it is just a game that will come to an end, but the relationships and experiences will last for a lifetime. Take what you have learned from the ballfield, good and bad, to make the rest of your life the best season ever!

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