Can you feel the electricity in the air? The sweaty palms, the nervous laughter, the sleepless nights?
It is that time of the year when athletes all over the country are gearing up for another year of brutal workouts, nervous anticipation, and gut-wrenching cut down days.
What am I talking about? The NFL season openers? Nope.
Major League Baseball playoffs? Nope.
NBA preseason? Nope.
I’m talking high school fall sports’ try-outs.
As a father and a high school soccer coach, I can tell you first hand that those stress-inducing professional sports have nothing on high school sports.
I coach freshman girls’ soccer here in the Northwest, and this time of year is downright crazy. Think about all that a 14-year-old girl has going on at the end of every August. There is starting high school. Making new friends. A whole new herd of awkward teen boys. Homecoming dances. And the list goes on and on.
But throw on top of that trying to make a sports team in the midst of all that drama, and it is frightening.
I’m in my second year coaching, and I love it. There is nothing that compares to the energy and enthusiasm these girls display on a daily basis. But the stress is real. Making the team means just as much to these ladies as it does to a sixth-round draft pick in the professional ranks.
Yes, there is more on the line and careers at stake as a pro, but don’t tell that to a girl with a mouth full of braces, who finds herself on the bubble between the varsity and junior varsity teams.
I get asked all the team how a parent, friend, or even a booster can support these girls through this difficult time?
First off, help make sure they are prepared. I see all the time girls showing up for their try-outs having not touched a soccer ball all summer and expecting just to pick up the sport again during the three days of evaluations. The players don’t necessarily need to be playing their sport all summer long, but if try-out day is their first time in months, they’ll be at a distinct disadvantage.
Suggest these athletes plan their summer so they have a couple weeks to go for a run, kick the ball with friends, and just do whatever it takes to stay in touch with their sport.
The physical preparations are huge, but the mental part of it cannot be discounted. Prepare them ahead of time for the stress and anxiety they will feel. I emphasize to my players the need to be organized in their lives as they head into the sports’ season so they can focus on playing their best.
Outside distractions can be the tipping point between getting to where high school athletes want to go and where they have to settle.
But the biggest help anyone can give these fragile athletes is unconditional support. They need to know they have a network that will be there for them whether they make the team or not. If they make JV instead of varsity, they need to know that life will still go on.
It won’t be easy and will leave a mark if things don’t go as planned. Be prepared for that scenario.
Please, please don’t be that parent who lives your past sports’ life through your kid. No one wins if you push your child over the edge because you couldn’t throw a football in the ocean or had two left feet during your “glory” days.
Sports, as we all know, are not life or death. They’re just for fun, right? There is a lot of time to find another outlet for that energy and skill if things don’t work out.
But for 14-year-olds, the sport they choose is everything. Don’t forget that.
Here’s to all those athletes dreaming big this upcoming season. I hope all your aspirations come true.