When you’re parenting a child with Type 1 diabetes, there’s always the question of how hands-on you should be in your child’s life. Every parent must decide for themselves how best to handle this. Is it best to be there for your child when they are doing extracurricular activities or teach your child to care for themselves in those situations?
Below we share one mom’s approach to keeping her daughter healthy during sports. What are some strategies you use to keep your child with diabetes on the playing field?
As a parent of a 10-year-old daughter with Type 1 diabetes, I’ve had to work hard to help her reach her potential.The most challenging part hasn’t been managing her blood sugar, but trying to help others understand the complexities of her disease. She’s an active, athletic girl, and it’s hard for others to understand how quickly her blood sugar levels can change. The best strategy I’ve found so far is to be there on the field with her as a coach for her teams. I can sense the changes in her blood sugar levels much quicker than anyone else around her, and treat them quickly enough to get her back in the game.
Every fall, Madison plays soccer. This spring, she made a traveling team meant for 12-year-olds, and we were so proud. I made arrangements with the league that I would be her assistant coach, allowing me to easily manage her blood sugar during practices and games. But then I found out that the head coach had already selected an assistant.
I immediately contacted the league, suggesting solutions, including having a second assistant. Their policy was to have only one assistant, and they wouldn’t budge. They countered that I could be an assistant equipment manager for the team, which sounded like a good idea until I learned I wouldn’t have access to the players during the game.
They couldn’t understand the complexity of managing Madison’s blood glucose during a game. When they look at her, she looks like every other kid, but her blood glucose can randomly shoot up 100 points at the start of a game from an adrenaline rush or suddenly drop that much after a few minutes of running around. And until she knows how to confidently treat those situations with insulin, relaxation exercises, or sugar, I need to be there to help her. It’s not just so she can play her best for herself, but also for the team.
Coaching Madison is easy. Managing her Type 1 isn’t, especially for someone who isn’t trained. Someone who is coaching a child with Type 1 has to be prepared to handle their highs and lows. There have been moments when Madison stops randomly on the field, unable to run any longer. There was even a situation where she walked off the field because she could feel her blood sugar levels dropping quickly. What do you do at that point if you’ve never experienced this? Add to this the task of managing 10 additional kids on top of managing Madison’s blood glucose during a game and you will have one overburdened coach.
In the end, we decided Madison shouldn’t play soccer this season. The league just didn’t get her disease. Instead, she is playing fast-pitch softball, with me as her head coach, while continuing to practice and develop her soccer skills on the side. We recently had our first fast-pitch softball game in early September. Madison pitched well and got a hit, all while we kept her blood sugar between 140 and 180 the entire game.