In this week’s podcast episode of Parenting with Truth and Grace, we talk about how to use athletics, and not let athletics use us on our parenting. You can listen to the podcast here. Also, if you haven’t already subscribed, why don’t you subscribe now so you automatically get each week’s newest episode?
At the risk of being a “bait and switch” title, the overall point of this blog is to suggest that there is a better question. As parents we all have great aspirations for our children, not always in athletics, but in
something. For many, once junior plays in his first T-ball game, the dreaming begins. And I might insert here; there’s nothing wrong with having dreams for our kids. In fact, I would worry if you didn’t.
From the time they are little, we wonder what they will be like. If you’ve ever been to a T-ball game, then you know it is a game only a parent should be forced to watch. Coaches are coaching, parents are yelling and cheering; meanwhile little junior is in the outfield admiring the jet flying overhead and playing with the bugs in the grass. And yet we begin to see glimmers of star power in the way they swing the bat or run the bases. Soon we are thinking about how our child should be in the higher league.
The truth is it’s very hard for parents to be objective about their own children. If you’re anything like us, you know all too well what it’s like to personalize the success or lack thereof our kids are experiencing on the field of play. If we’re not careful, we’re paying for private lessons, putting them on the best (and most expensive) select teams, and driving them from one practice to another as they compete in multiple sports, on multiple teams, at the same time. All of this is going on in spite of the fact that our child isn’t even thirteen years old!
To say youth athletics is out of control would be a gross understatement. Now, we realize not everyone is doing this in hopes of one day having a child play for the Seattle Seahawks (we’ll settle for the playing in the PAC 12 :). But even if you’re a parent trying to keep things in perspective, the social pressure to conform can be enormous. In fact, the feeling of guilt can be very real as you explain to your neighbors why little Sara isn’t going to play on the select soccer team with the rest of her friends. What once was considered a bonus and privilege, is now viewed as mandatory and a necessity to be an athlete. Please hear us, there is nothing wrong with athletics. It has been a huge part of our family’s life. What we’re reacting to is which parts of athletics we’ve prioritized and which parts we’ve neglected.
We’ve prioritized success on the athletic field, even though a big part of that success is genetically determined. We’ve neglected the lessons in character, sportsmanship and all the impactful “teachable moments”. Remember we love sports. All of our kids have competed. Five of our first seven have competed at the major college level at one time or another. Two have started on Pac-12 teams. One is now coaching at a Division I college program. We understand the world of sports. In addition I (David) have coached at the high school level for over 30 years and played Division I college football. So we want your children to have success. But more than that, we want your children to grow into Godly adults with real character!
That won’t happen if as parents we continue to run interference for our children when it comes to their coaches. As I’ve said in previous blogs, the hard reality is that most of the coaches your kids will have won’t be very good. They will often times be the ones who were willing to say yes (probably when you couldn’t) to coaching the team. They are faithful, but they aren’t very good coaches! A small percentage of your children’s coaches will be awful. Thankfully that number likely won’t be very high, but you will have them. Please know that we draw the line at illegal or immoral… if it isn’t one of those two, then we will almost invariably support the coach (even if it pains us to do so!). There are exceptions, but not very many. And finally, if you are lucky, you will have a handful of coaches that are great. When you have them, thank the good Lord and thank them for coaching. You might want to even buy them a gift card so they can take their family out to dinner or something… maybe feeling appreciated might keep them coaching one more year.
There is more, but I’ll finish with this thought… you had your chance to play. Now it’s your child’s turn. Let them play and enjoy the game. Parents, we should try really hard not to vicariously play through our kids. Because if you do, the temptation is too great to say things and do things that undermine the character building aspects of sports. Focus instead on teaching them to do the right thing, regardless of what everyone else (even the coach) is doing. Remember, athletics ends for everyone sooner or later. For most athletes it ends sooner. Don’t ruin lessons that can last a lifetime because you’re caught up in the emotion of winning one more game, or playing an extra minute, or making the right team.
We’re going to continue this conversation about athletics with the next few podcasts, so if you haven’t already, then consider clicking HERE and subscribing to “Parenting with Truth and Grace”. If you haven’t listened to today’s episode yet, you can check that our here PWTG Episode #33. And remember, as you dream for your children, dream BIG… much bigger than just a silly game!