To the parents of the child athlete:
Hey guys! You know me, I’m one of you! We’ve shared some great times together over the years; at the games, the meets, ?the awards ceremonies. ?We’ve shared collective high fives, sported team jerseys, worked that concession stand like a boss!
I’ve loved every minute of it. There is nothing like hearing the crack of a bat or the whoosh of the winning basket, when the one behind the ball is your own child. I have mastered the humble-mom smile and return compliment, in response to the other parents comments on my little super star. I sit in the bleachers beaming with pride. My mind fast-forwards years from now, to the high school games, our kids together again, on a much bigger field, in front of a much bigger crowd, the scouts, the offers, the opportunities!
I am shaken from this fantasy by the groans of a couple of the parents sitting next to me. One of our star players was just pulled from the game, to give some playing time to a rather uncoordinated teammate.
“Great!” I hear one of the dads grumble. “There goes the game.”
I cringe as I quickly scan the bleachers in hopes that this child’s parents are not within earshot.
I recognize the look on their faces. I know it all too well. ?Because I am one of them too.
I am also the parent of a “not-so-athletic child” ?- to put it nicely.
The thing is, he’s a child. There is a considerable amount of developmental variability in regards to athletic ability, and it just so happens that our younger son, developed a lot faster and earlier than our older son.
The fact that our older son lags behind his peers, puts him at greater risk for giving up on ?sports before he reaches his full athletic potential. He may become frustrated with himself or worse; his coach, his teammates, or even their parents will become frustrated with him, concluding that he is no good, or doesn’t deserve the time out on the field. That he is a hindrance to the team.
Watching one of his games is a much different experience than watching our younger son’s games. We watch most of the game being played by his teammates while he sits patiently on the bench. When he is called to play, we hold our breath, hands clasped together, praying that his short time on the field goes smoothly.
At a recent soccer game, he was quite a bit behind the rest of the team while the opposing team had control of the ball. One of his teammates gained control and kicked the ball to my son who was wide open and had a huge advantage to get across the field and possibly score! He recognized this opportunity, dribbled down that field, set himself up for the goal and took a few steps back. He ran, full force towards that ball and gave it everything he had. I’d?never seen him kick with such passion, such power, as he did that moment. Unfortunately, he completely missed the ball and landed flat on his back. The rest of the kids ran right past him, and the ball was recovered from the opposing team.
I heard a mother yell “Oh, come on!!”
One of the dads threw his hands up in the air, “You have GOT to be kidding me!”
My heart hurt for my boy, as he stood up, then laughed at himself, in an awkward, embarrassed kind of way, and jumped right back into the game.
That bravery. That resilience. To get up and brush himself off and get right back in there after that. After the obvious disappointment expressed by the crowd of people five times his age. That to me, is far more impressive than any home run, or game winning goal, basket, or touchdown scored by his brother.
The words of those parents stung. This was a game. A children’s game. A chance to develop confidence, character, and sportsmanship through teamwork. Something I am not willing to deny him of, just because he is not as “good” as the rest of the team.
Patents, you may think that it is not your job to help my child build up his self-esteem. Fine. But it is certainly not your place to break it down.
You may argue that this is the problem with kids these days. We have created a generation of entitled children who expect to be rewarded “for just showing up” Who expect playing time, “even if they suck.”
I beg to differ. I do believe we have created a generation of entitlement, but it has nothing to do with giving them opportunities to learn, or for rewarding their efforts.
Efforts?should be rewarded. We want to encourage hard work, determination and pushing through. Giving it everything they’ve got, even when they suck.
The real problem is the over-involvement of these parents. The micromanaging of schedules, the clearing of paths to ensure that their child is receiving the best opportunities with the least amount of effort. Picking them up when they fall, or worse, creating an environment where it is impossible for them to fall in the first place. Investing in the best, top-of-the-line equipment, and carting them around from activity to activity.?Standing on the sidelines and groaning when their kid is pulled from the game. Arguing with coaches and insisting that their child is “too good” to be sitting on the bench.
How can these kids learn to be team players when their parents have taught them to throw a fit when they don’t get their way? That the game could not, and should not go on without them? ?How can they learn respect when their parents are yelling obscenities ?from the sidelines, and sometimes at the expense of another child?
To the parents of the athletic child:
I am one of you, so let’s make a pact. I vote that we let the coaches do their jobs. That we let the refs and the umps do their jobs. ?That we support our own children, and their teammates as well, regardless of their performance that day. Let’s teach them to get back up when they fall. And for Gods sake, let’s teach our children that if they ever see another player fall, to reach out a hand and help them back up again.