Three Things You Better Do if You Want Your Athlete to be Humble

“Come play me in basketball dad, I’m gonna whup you!” My eight year old son was throwing down the challenge to me. We were at Young Life camp and just hanging out in the sports center. Based on some previous conversations, I realized it was time to teach my young padawan (sorry for the Star Wars reference) a lesson.

Keila USMA hat


Keila today… a senior heading to West Point… a humble kid with a proud dad!

So I joined him on the basketball court and proceeded to dominate him (after all I’m twice his size). Then he said, “Come play me in ping pong, I’ll wipe you out.” So I went over and crushed him in ping pong. He immediately proclaimed, “Come play me in pool, I’ll dominate. You ain’t got nothin’.” So I proceeded to beat him on the pool table.

Thankfully, it was time for the center to close and we had to leave. We’d had conversation about all the trash talking that had become the common place in athletics. The walk back to our cabin was long and it was the perfect opportunity to talk more about this with my recently humbled son. Our conversation went something like this.

Me: Keila, what do you think about Krista (his older sister) as a basketball player.

Keila: She’s really good.

Me: Do you ever hear her talk about herself.

Keila: No, never. It’s always someone else talking about her.

Me: That’s right. And it’s so much better if someone else is telling people how good you are, rather than you telling people how good you are.

We talked a little about what we had recently read in Proverbs about humility and pride. But taking advantage of teachable moments is one of the big three, when it comes to teaching your kids about being humble. I heard someone once say, don’t try to be humble, you’re not that great!

Here are the three things you better teach if you want your child/athlete to be humble.

  • Talk about what you are watching – Between TV, Middle school games, high school games, and club sports, trash talking has become the norm. Don’t miss the opportunities to point out good examples and bad examples of how athletes handle this. The cultural influence is strong for athletes to exhibit bravado and cockiness. Incidents like Richard Sherman’s post-game interview following his athletic play in the endzone sparked a lot of opinions. Whether you think Sherman was right or wrong isn’t nearly as important as having the conversation with your kids about what they would want to do in a similar situation.
  • Teach biblical humility – make sure our kids have heard what the bible says about pride and arrogance. It may be the norm for our culture, but God hates pride and arrogance. Rather than just tell our kids, “I don’t like it.” Let them know God desires us to think more highly of others than ourselves.
  • Teachable moments – the greatest opportunity for teaching your kids about humility will come in the form of teachable moments. Don’t be as concerned about whether or not they score a lot of points; focus more of your parenting energy on training their character in this area of humility. Look for times when they’ve done well at handling praise or success. And point out situations when they’ve acted out of line.

Start with these three things. Stay diligent. Your child/athlete will be such a gift to their team and to their teammates. Have you had any teachable moments with humility and your children? We’d love to hear about them.