Regardless of our work, we have bad work days. We just do. And I had just experienced one. Post bad day, I arrived to coach my son’s flag football game in the opening round of the playoffs. I had too quickly separated myself from this less than desirable business day into another environment requiring patience with all parties, in this case, players, coaches, parents, and officials. Except, well, at this moment, my patience was nowhere to be found and the poor referee never knew what hit him.

On a close play along the sidelines, on the absolute first pass of the game, after a call that went against our team, I fostered my day long angst and did a frustration dump on the undeserving official. Knowing him from several games during the season and having established myself as fairly level headed, he was as surprised as I was by my outburst. We stared at each other for a couple seconds afterwards, almost in equal amazement. He then kindly, but firmly, instructed me to calm down. Good for him. It was not until that moment that I realized how poorly I had prepared for the transition from businessperson to coach and dad. After apologizing, I vowed right at that moment I would try with all my being never to let that happen again.

The most concerning part for me was not even seeing it coming. I should have recognized the signs. I was uptight. I was short on patience. I still had the business day on my mind. All ingredients for trouble. And there is no greater independent force more capable of shifting our behavior than stress. We never know when this animal lies right around the corner.

In my desire to eliminate a repeat performance, I remember telling myself I needed a strategy for changing environments in the same way I would need a plan for successfully conducting business or leading in sports. Paving a successful path between the two was just as important as the roles themselves.

Clearly, no one plan fits everyone. For moms and dads working from home, I expect your challenge is distinct, having limited or no ability to separate yourselves before moving into sports parent or coach mode, no half hour wind-down time or ability to take a long walk, separate from children. Everyone has their own challenges, based on type of work, distance from home, and so many other factors.

For me, while I would like to exercise before transitioning, a great stress reducer for me, seldom was there time between work and sports. My process related more to consciously and deliberately reminding myself to put my frustrations in their proper perspective, taking stock of the fact that those in my parenting or coaching world deserved the best version of myself, along with practicing deep breathing techniques in an attempt to unwind. Further, I would consciously seek out those that had a way of relaxing me, whether by humor or their easy-going nature. Nothing breaks anxiety quicker than a good laugh. I admired those that arrived at the events seemingly without a care in the world. Surely, they had their own stressors, but they had found a way to manage them. And it was critical to remember the importance of executing the transition plan on a regular basis. Being prepared part of the time was not good enough. It had to be each and every time.

I know I am not alone. I remember so vividly seeing parents arriving at the games, clearly not having separated from their earlier anxiety. Whether a father, with dress shirt and tie still adorned, bolting out of his car without any recognition of those around him charging toward his child’s field with the stress of the day on their face, or other parents entering their dugout to coach with a tone more geared to the adult environment they just left behind, they too having missed the transition time between worlds. It applies to most of us, just in different ways.

So it is incumbent on each of us to develop our own process for keeping balance between work and youth sports. Parenting is challenging. Combining parenting with sports only ups the ante. Adding the challenge of quickly leaping between worlds adds one more level of difficulty. But it is not a process we need to go through alone. We need to support each other.

From the voice of experience, the days of your children’s youth sports will be over in a blink. My wife has often said, “the days last forever, but the years fly by.” It is so true. Consider the blessing of your involvement in youth sports and the short time you will have to experience it. Hopefully, both will give you the perspective necessary to be the best version of yourself each and every time you enter the arena of youth sports.

Bill Barry is a North Kingstown resident. He writes about sports parenting, the local sports scene and more in a regular column.

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