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Home field advantage: Parents turn sports stress into a win for kids

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Having kids in sports can be stressful, but parents find ways to turn it into a win-win

Albuquerque soccer mom Kate Brennan has seen it all from the sidelines.

Parents behaving badly – yelling at coaches, refs, their kids and other players.

How did these loving parents become raging caricatures of themselves?

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A national study says it’s stress – hauling their kids to practice and games.

And Brennan knows firsthand that on game day, emotions run high.

“If you bagged all the emotional energy on the sidelines, you could fuel Albuquerque for a month,” she says.

Are parents about to explode from the stress?

One national survey suggests that, but several local families say the benefits outweigh the cost.

Their children gain physical exercise and social interaction, while they enjoy the rewards of sharing a sport with their children. Many parents, while spread thin, have found ways to manage the stress.

Kyle Taylor watches his daughter, Jolie, 8, and his son, Jackson, 12, practice soccer at the Bernalillo Soccer Complex. Kyle encourages parents to volunteer to coach or referee as a way to relieve stress. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Kyle Taylor watches his daughter, Jolie, 8, and his son, Jackson, 12, practice soccer at the Bernalillo Soccer Complex. Kyle encourages parents to volunteer to coach or referee as a way to relieve stress. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

What it takes

It does take a ton of commitment and energy to drive kids to practices and games – in town and out – several times a week, Brennan says. Plus, there’s the expense.

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For working parents with several children in sports, she can see how a bad call or a child playing poorly could trigger bad behavior.

“I’m sure it is stressful, especially for younger moms and dads,” Brennan says.

More than two-thirds of 400 mothers with kids in organized sports nationwide are stressed, according to a survey by uSamp, an online polling company. More than three-quarters agree they feel better when the season is over.

More than half of the sample say their families also suffer from the related stress. Couples fight over responsibilities for transporting the kids, when children don’t play well and over the expense of playing, the study commissioned by i9 Sports reports.

Brennan, 57, a physical therapist, says with her daughter playing soccer as a senior at Albuquerque Academy and her son in college, “I’m at the endpoint now. Looking back I wonder, how did we pull it off, but I’m glad we did. I loved it. It was my kids’ passion, and it became our lifestyle.”

Brennan, a competitive runner, says she feels fortunate that her children loved soccer because it gave her family structure during some challenging times: “There was already a path, you just had to get on it.”

Brennan recalls with fondness all the great friends she’s made of parents on her children’s teams. Together they carpooled and shared responsibilities for the team: “We made it work for one another because it was for our children. When you are in the flow of it, you do what you have to do to make it work.”

As for the expenses that amount to thousands of dollars each season, she says she feels lucky because her family was able to afford it. Even so, money spent on soccer meant it wasn’t spent on home remodels, fancy vacations or even retirement savings: “We did it for them now. My children know how fortunate they are.

“I’m lucky; I’ve had successful kids. I wouldn’t trade any of the memories, but I wouldn’t know how to do it again. It’s like a artist with a masterpiece. I drew it once and that’s enough.”

Taking control

One of the things soccer mom Lee Anne Klombies, an occupational therapist, does to manage her stress is to take control, she says: “I’ve taken control of everything I can.”

She coaches the Hornets for Colin, 8, and the Rattlers for Hayden, 5. Being coach allows her to set the time and location for the practice schedule. Saturdays are hectic; she has both boys’ games and also tries to watch other teams playing.

She has a flexible work schedule, so she limits her work hours to the time her little guys are in school. She also has some work assignments that allow her boys to accompany her. A widow since Hayden was a few days old, she’s determined to spend as much time with her boys as she can: “I don’t want someone else to raise them. They already lost their dad.”

Klombies, 44, agreed to coach on the condition that some of the other moms would help watch her younger boy while she coaches. From Canada originally, her extended family is far away.

She wasn’t a particular soccer fan when her boys started playing, but she’s studied hard and attended all the trainings offered.

“I am also almost able to handpick my teams. I have very supportive parents. We have happy people on our team,” she says, adding that the mix also makes her life less stressful.

‘Crazy’ but good

Lee Anne Klombies manages stress related to her kids’ soccer by taking charge. She’s become a soccer coach so she can have more say in scheduling. (Courtesy of Lee Anne Klombies)

Lee Anne Klombies manages stress related to her kids’ soccer by taking charge. She’s become a soccer coach so she can have more say in scheduling. (Courtesy of Lee Anne Klombies)

Longtime coach Kyle Taylor,, who has four kids in soccer, says he and his wife, Anne Taylor, manage by immersing themselves into their children’s sports: “I’m sure by some people’s standards it would seem stressful and crazy. For us, it hasn’t been. We know soccer season is crazy so we don’t schedule other things during that part of the year.”

Taylor, a certified arborist, who owns KTCA Tree Care Inc. with Anne, who is a lawyer, also coaches his two boys, Jackson, 12, and Logan, 10, on their wrestling team.

He says it’s a family value for their kids to be engaged in organized physical activity outside of school: “What else would the kids be doing after school, if they weren’t playing soccer? I would rather them be out doing something physical than sitting at home. As a parent, you still have to figure it out. They say having two kids is twice the work, well, it’s true for four kids. It quadruples.”

As for parents who bring their stress to the game or take it out by yelling at the kids, the coaches or the referees, Kyle has some advice, “if you want to coach, volunteer or volunteer to ref. Parents can provide positive support, but leave the coaching to the coaches. I don’t think kids hear one bit of it anyway. Parents and coaches work themselves into a frenzy, but I imagine the kids would like it if it were quiet.”

Anne drives the Taylor kids to practice. “To the extent we can, we keep the practices close to our house.”

Her daily soccer commute in her Chevy Traverse is a little lighter this year because her older daughter, Kylee, 14, plays soccer at the Albuquerque Academy and often catches a ride home with her cousins.

But her younger daughter, Jolie, 8, has started gymnastics, a sport Anne enjoyed as a child, so that complicates the schedule, but it’s a joy to see her turning cartwheels around the house, she says.

“If they didn’t enjoy it, we wouldn’t continue,” she says. Unlike the women in the survey, Anne says the impact of the commitment to so many sports has had little impact on her marriage of 17 years.

“I think we’re pretty much on the same page. Kyle gets a lot out of coaching the game. It makes him a happier person,” she says. “For us, this is still a joyous thing, not a burden. If practice goes late, it’s just our lives. This is what we know. We’re the ones who signed up for it after all.”


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