The Only Six Words You Need to Know

I. Love. To. Watch. You. Play.

Asia Mape

| 4 min read

Twenty20

Being a great sports parent isn’t something that comes naturally to most. Our egos, our intense love for our children and our desire to help them succeed can turn even the best-intentioned parents into bat sh-t crazy people. 

I was one of them.

Until six words changed my life.

I grew up trying to keep up with my two older brothers. Sports were everything to them, so sports were everything to me. This sparked my competitive fire, which in turn helped me excel at sports — in particular basketball, which turned into a college basketball scholarship. After earning a degree in journalism, I spent the next 20 years working in sports television, interviewing hundreds of professional athletes. I worked closely with and witnessed the best athletes in the world train, practice and play on a daily basis.

Then I became a mom of three girls. 

And then my girls started playing sports.

To say I wasn’t prepared for this would be a gross understatement. And at the time, I didn’t know any better. I thought I had it all figured out. It was my job to help my kids succeed and win. I could do that. I understood what it took, or so I thought. I gave my time, energy and money to help them in any way possible. As a family, we sacrificed so much: family dinners, downtime for the kids, other creative pursuits and work. I thought we were doing the right thing. I thought I was helping my kids.

One day a friend and I talked about how out of control we were feeling and how youth sports had taken over our lives. She casually mentioned John O’Sullivan and Changing the Game Project and his discovery that after interviewing thousands of kids, the only thing they wanted to hear from their parents was… 

I love watching you play. 

By this time, I was in deep. Club sports had taken over our lives. Three kids — multiple sports, travel teams, equipment, snacks, private trainers … the works. I was trying to keep up with the Joneses, Smiths and Stewarts. I ran their sports lives as though they were mini-adults or college-level athletes, not 8-, 7- and 5-year olds. I knew there must be a better way.

My friend and I decided to start Ilovetowatchyouplay.com as an outlet to share our love, knowledge, access to experts’ advice and our own experiences with other parents to help them feel less crazy and out of control. We picked the name because it expressed, in six little words, everything sports parenting should be and everything we wanted to be, but weren’t yet. 

In fact, five years in, and I still consider myself a work in progress. And I think most of us feel that way. I love to watch you play. It’s an ideal, it’s something to shoot for, but if you don’t feel that way all the time, it doesn’t mean you are bad parents or that you don’t want what’s best for your kids. Every single family is different. Every athlete is different. And what works for one family or kid won’t work well for another. In the end, we all want the same thing — our kids to be happy, healthy and successful. And we are all traveling our own journey and our own path to get there. 

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