Embracing sports to bond with my guys

My husband and two boys love sports. They play, they watch, and they talk sports. And because the various sports seasons overlap, my daughter and I have learned to accept the fact that sports are part of our lives all year long.

At some point, I started to feel left out by all the sports focus in our house. I know there other moms who have been there!

I had been a very casual sports observer. Sports were always a part of my life to some extent, since that seemed to be how I bonded with my dad growing up. We cheered for the same college basketball team, played “horse” on the basketball hoop in our backyard, and went to professional baseball games when I was little. I even played softball for a few summers in elementary school.

After I grew up and got married, I didn’t pay much attention to sports. I think I watched with my hubby some and we even went to a few games, but I really couldn’t muster much interest. Then we had two boys. My husband was thrilled to have some fellow sports fans in the house.

When my oldest son – and then my youngest son – became so absorbed with sports, I realized I wanted to share more in the things that interested them. I also realized I had been missing out on the opportunity to connect more with my husband by sharing his interest with him.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

I decided that I needed to make more of an effort to embrace sports alongside my husband and boys. These are my top five ways to engage with the sports culture in my home.

1. Be his #1 fan.

This one seemed obvious: if he’s playing, I show up and cheer. Easy.

Except in our society, it’s not always that simple. Guys often feel defined by their sports accomplishments. I had to think about things like how do I respond when he had a bad game and gets discouraged? Or when one son has more natural athletic ability than the other?

As moms, we need to know how to support our boys no matter how well they do at a sport. Whether a boy is the star of the team, warms the bench, doesn’t make the team, or doesn’t try out, he wants to know mom is in his corner.

That doesn’t mean inflating his ego or offering false flattery. It just means recognizing his abilities and encouraging him to do his personal best. When he’s playing on a team, it means supporting the work he does to practice, improve, and contribute to the team – letting him know you’re proud of his effort and commitment.

2. Learn the game so you can talk about it.

If your child loves a sport, he’ll want to talk about it with you. It’s worth a little time investment to learn enough to carry on the conversation.

I’ve surprised some of my son’s and husband’s friends by talking with them about sports. They didn’t expect me to know much about a sport or a team. I realized that many women are missing out on the chance to connect with their guys through sports conversations – just as I had missed out in the past.

My hubby was happy to teach me more about sports so we could enjoy them together. I really had a hard time understanding football and being interested in it, though. After he had reluctantly joined a fantasy football league and then found that it was a fun way to follow the football season, he suggested that I join the next year. He was right: by playing fantasy football I felt much more invested in football, and my guys all loved that I could have a genuine conversation with them about football!

3. Pick a favorite team to cheer together.

There’s something about sporting events that brings people together. You feel a sense of camaraderie when you’re cheering for the same team.

I’ve found that it’s much more fun to support the same team than to be a house divided. This can be tricky, though when kids decide to go their own way on picking a favorite team for one or more sports.

My oldest son started watching football in 2007, the year the New England Patriots had an undefeated season going into the Super Bowl. He jumped on the Patriots bandwagon back then and has remained a Patriots fan while the rest of us root for the local team.

That’s OK. We’re in agreement on our other teams. We just have to deal with a little trash talk among the guys when our NFL teams face off. That’s one part of the sports scene I still dislike, so I’m glad they don’t play each other often!

4. Celebrate the big games.

Buy snacks, host a party, let them stay up late. Personally, I think the big games get really over-hyped, but they’re important to my husband and sons. It’s fun to make them into an occasion they really enjoy and remember!

5. Get out and play.

This one may be the hardest for many moms, whether it’s because of time constraints, lack of ability, or because dad usually does it. Even though it’s not my favorite thing to do, my boys think it’s fun (and sometimes funny) when I go out and shoot the basketball with them for a few minutes, pass the football, play catch with the baseball, or try to score a soccer goal against them.

Maybe it’s because they like to laugh at how bad I am at their sports. But I think it’s just because it shows that I’m willing to spend time with them and be involved with the things they enjoy. I treat this like vacations – I don’t do it too often, but it makes for fun memories!

Do you get out and play sports with your boys?  How do you cope with your own kids’ sports obsession?

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