Can your marriage and youth sports be teammates?
Do you and your spouse argue over youth sports issues? Are you frequently not on the same page when it comes to what’s best for your young athlete?
How can you be sure that sports and marriage are indeed playing on the same team, instead of being at each other’s throats?
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I was a wife for all 22 years of being a sports mom, so I know the strain that youth sports puts on a marriage. To make matters even more complicated, I was married to a coach, who usually managed to remain very level-headed and objective about the frustrations that arose. With three kids in sports simultaneously, these are the problems youth sports caused in our marriage, and you may find that they cause conflict in yours, too.
1. Disagreements about the importance of competition
He was usually the one who was more competitive and understood the desire to win, while I tended to side with the all-kids-should-play mentality and was more concerned about how my kids felt, rather than how they played.
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2. Not being on the same page when it came to the bigger picture of youth sports.Sometimes, my husband saw the bigger value of life lessons that youth sports offers, and sometimes it was me — but often, we didn’t see the same thing at the same time. Usually one of us was more frustrated and upset than the other. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because then you are balancing each other out. However, it can still cause conflict in a marriage if not handled properly — with patience and understanding.
3. Misinterpreted venting
In our marriage, I was usually the one venting about the coach or the team, and my ranting would often get my husband riled to the point that he felt he had to do something about it. He mistook my venting for a directive to do something about the problem, when in fact all I needed was to vent.
4. Letting kids feel the tension
When you fight over youth sports and how to handle situations, your kids may feel as though they are the reason you are arguing. Your child should not feel that guilt.
5. Taking sides with kids against each other
Of course, there will be times when you do not agree about how to handle a situation, and when one of you agrees with your kid and the other doesn’t. But have this discussion in private, away from the kids. Publicly siding with a child against your spouse will cause rifts in your marriage.
If you can identify with these problems — and you may have more to add to the list — you have to understand that your focus should be on the health of your marriage, not just on these individual issues. Go back to the basics of working on your marriage and that will be the foundation from which you can resolve all these other problems. Here are some ways to work on the health of your relationship:
1. Schedule date nights. Put them on the calendar and don’t let anything get in the way.
2. Sync calendars. Be sure your sports schedules are in agreement and then look them over at the beginning of the week to see what each of you can or cannot do.
3. Realize you can’t do it all. As much as you can, go to sports events together to enjoy the memories as a couple, but if you have multiple kids playing, you will need to divide and conquer.
4. Say NO. If your kids’ busy schedule is hurting your family life or your marriage, it’s time to say no to some things. It may be that your kids are playing too many sports, or playing two sports at once. The strain that puts on your family or marriage is too great of a sacrifice.
5. Have a family meeting every year or every season to talk through the importance of sacrificing the right things and holding on to what’s important.
6. Get away as a couple at least once a year.
7. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Make the most of your child’s games or trips in the car. Use the time to catch up on each other’s day. For 35 years, my husband and I have practiced that — while raising three kids, while coaching — and through every season always found time in our day to check in and see how the other’s day was going or had gone.
Your marriage can stay strong if you take care of it. But I know that the busy-ness of parenting and sports parenting often causes parents to let things slide, things like good communication and a date life with your spouse. If you want your marriage and youth sports to be on the same team, have a conversation today with your spouse and plan together how you can make that happen.