I (David) remember the scene well. Our oldest son Tavita, was crouched on the sideline with his head down. He was discouraged after losing our third game in a row. After a promising start to the season, he was taking more than his fair share of the blame for our losses. Following this third loss he didn’t feel like he could face our fans for the post-game thank-yous.
Celebrating with Tavita after beating our rivals just 2 weeks after the devastating loss
Maybe you’ve heard it said; athletics teaches character. Or perhaps you’ve benefited from the teachable moments sports can afford. Or you might be that parent intent on using athletics and not letting athletics use your kid. Regardless, have you ever considered what the most important thing you want your child to take away from athletics? At the very least, what is the one critical character quality athletics has a way of teaching your child, perhaps better than anything else?
In athletics, as in life, you need character. Certainly we want to teach our children Godly character. Sports is a great place to learn things like hard work, teamwork, diligence, sacrifice etc. But these character qualities require one particular character in order to be lived out – and that’s the character of self-control. Think about it, we know what we need to do; we just need the self-discipline to actually do it. If your child isn’t interested in athletics, whatever activity they are involved in, make sure they’re learning self-control.
Here are some practical ways for your athlete to learn self-control:
- Go to practice – make sure they go on time and ready to work especially when they don’t feel like it. Once the newness and excitement of joining the team leaves, what is left often times is the self-control to keep at it.
- 24 Hour Rule – This is one of our triggers. After a loss or a big win we gave our kids 24 hours to deal with the emotion. They couldn’t be mean or disrespectful, but we allowed them a little space to process and get control.
- Partner with their coaches – We know you are going to struggle with some coaches (read our blog on coaches). Be wise but don’t rescue your child every time they disagree with what the coach has done. Often the character gained is far more valuable than the playing time they missed.
- Let them know you are in their corner – in the story I told above, I wanted to help Tavita escape embarrassment, but I knew it was a defining moment. I told him there would be better days. I also told him I’d go with him. We loved going to watch our kids when they won. But we knew it was more important to be there when they lost or if they got beat out or when they were discouraged.
We love athletics and what it has taught our kids. We’re not happy with some of the ways it seems to be trending. We continue to believe it’s an incredible tool to teach your child character… especially if you have the self-control to journey through it with them.
What was the greatest sports moment for your child? What was the hardest? What was your response?