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Being Brave Sports Parents So Our Children Will Thrive

I don’t usually welcome technical difficulties when interviewing people, but on this particular day a couple of years ago, they were a gift. I was interviewing Dr. Jerry Lynch for the 2016 Soccer Parenting Summit and his Internet was going in and out, causing us to start and stop our interview. Yes, it was stressful – but suddenly a feeling of gratitude rushed over me – because this meant I could schedule another interview on a different day. Another hour with Jerry! What a gift!

Jerry is a sport psychologist, author of eleven books, and the founder of Way of Champions, a consulting group geared toward “mastering the inner game’ for peak sports performance. He has worked with numerous Olympic, NBA, and NCAA champions and “transforms the lives of parents, coaches, and youth athletes.”

It’s hard not to feel like you are speaking with a guru when talking to Jerry. To begin with – he has white hair and a bushy white mustache, talks with a calm voice that has clearly counseled many an athlete, parent and coach – plus the wind chimes! He has wind chimes that are bellowing peace and prosperity as the Colorado mountain air moves behind him!

I had been connected to Dr. Jerry Lynch via John O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project, who himself calls Jerry a mentor – so I knew he was someone I wanted to spend time with, learn from, and bring his messaging to the sports parents and coaches in my audience.

Jerry had just published his latest book “Let Them Play: The Power and Joy of Mindful Sports Parenting” where he combines psychological insight and spiritual principles of  Taoism and Buddhism to lay out some core principles for sports parents when it comes to providing a healthy environment for children to learn and attempt to be the best version of themselves through sport.

These (thankfully two) conversations with Jerry were the first time I had a rush of understanding about the work I am doing with Soccer Parenting. They proved to be the first time I realized a primary solution for much of the stress parents feel as we navigate the often confusing youth sports landscape…is mindfulness.

Parents being more aware and mindful of their feelings and beliefs will go a long way towards solving many of the issues we face in youth sports.

Jerry’s work in mindfulness was inspiring to me, and something I wanted to continue to learn more about and share with the Soccer Parenting community.

So, when Glenn Crooks and Brian Ching both recently reached out to me on the same day with an email connection to Patrick Ianni, a former MLS player who recently published a book for soccer parents about mindfulness, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to talk to Patrick about his book.

Our FaceTime conversation could have gone on all day – rambling between our experiences growing up in the game, to the work we are currently doing with parents and coaches, to the powerful potential that exists to improve relationships between parents and their children – all while helping children thrive. We had to cut it off at about 80 minutes so we could get back to the work of the day.

After receiving, reading, and going through some of the exercises in Patrick’s book On Frame, Exploring the Depths of Parenting in the World of Youth Soccer, I knew I wanted to have he and his co-author Seth Taylor on as webinar guests.

The book, mind you, is not a simple read in the park – it’s actually a bit of work!

Patrick and Seth, a life coach, provide journaling exercises, opportunities for reflection, awareness exploration at soccer games, and more. The result? A deeper understanding about how we affect our children and clarity about the best paths to take to help our children develop their own identity in sport.

This concept of identity was something Patrick and I kept coming back to in our FaceTime conversation.

  • How our responses and reactions to our children’s sports performances affect their perceptions of themselves.
  • What do our children need from us when they walk off the field?
  • How important is a deep-rooted passion for and love for the game – not a love for praise or positive results - to being a successful athlete?
  • What is our role as parents in helping our children develop this passion and love for the game?

As Patrick says, “This guidebook is something that we can all learn from. It can help us adopt a new framework for helping protect and nurture a healthier identity in our children. To make it in the sports world, I believe you need to truly love the sport and be passionate about what you are doing.”

Vulnerability has been a theme of the week for me!

I am reading Brené Brown’s new book – Dare to Lead - and struck by the importance of being vulnerable. In the book, Brené tells the story of a group of Navy Seals who all said it was impossible to be brave without being vulnerable. Vulnerability is too often mistakenly associated with weakness, when it is, in fact, just the opposite. Being vulnerable is brave. And when we are vulnerable, growth will occur.

So – if you are ready to bring a bit of vulnerability to your sports parenting, and help your child thrive while diving in deeper to your beliefs, values and thoughts surrounding your child and their sporting experience, pick up a copy of Let Them Play and On Frame!

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Skye Eddy

Founder, SoccerParenting.com
Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF "B" License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.