Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kids and Sports

Our weekend rituals consist of ferrying the boys to a variety of activities, from Fun Night to birthday parties to baseball/soccer/soccer/football games. We often joke that we need a weekend to recover from the weekend. Sports, in my opinion, are critical in teaching our kids some pretty important lessons that will serve them throughout their lives. We've had both good and bad experiences with the boys and sports, but all have helped to shape the boys into the fine young men that they are becoming. We've tried to stress to them that the difficult times (losing streaks, belligerent coaches, difficult teammates, bad calls by officials, etc.) teach them more than the good times. That's sometimes hard for a 9-11 year old to understand, but I still think that its critical to explain it to them and try to help them put things in perspective. I've been constantly amazed at how my kids have internalized what I've explained to them to become more mature human beings and better teammates.

Although we've been very fortunate with the coaches, parents, and teammates (on the whole) that we've had over the past few years, I've witnessed some behaviors that also teach some lessons. First, I'll be the first to admit that I've had no formal experience with coaching, nor have I played organized sports at a high level. I say that to prefice the fact that this is just my opinion as a parent and a fan of sports in general. To this point, I've also not been willing to commit the time to coach, nor do I believe that I am qualified to teach the kids what they need to know beyond a certain point. I admire and appreciate those that are willing to do so. The coaches for my kids teams have run the gamut from those that have had formal experience and backgrounds that qualify them to teach the fundamentals of the sports that they are coaching to those volunteer Dads that just want their kids and their teammates to have fun. If I was asked to offer advice to someone that was considering coaching kids, I would probably boil it down to the following:

*Don't relive your childhood at the expense of the kids that you are coaching
*While winning is important, it should not overshadow the importance of playing the game the right way, both fundamentally and ethically. The kids will be watching you and how you act and respond to certain situations. What will you teach them?
*Effort should be praised along with results. Talent will vary, but if a kid is hustling and trying hard, they should be recognized for the effort. To use a baseball analogy, you'll never hit anything if you dont swing the bat. A word of encouragement from you may enable a kid to overcome fears or insecurities that could affect them for years.
*Don't underestimate the impact that you can have on the kids. How many of us remember that one coach or teacher that affected us profoundly duing our childhood?

Some of these same lessons apply to how we should behave as parents. I think that we often forget that our kids learn how to be adults, friend, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters from US. They watch us and how we interact with the world around us to LEARN how to handle the challenges that will face them throughout their lives. The next time you stand up to scream at an umpire or referree about a bad call or complain about the coach putting a less talented kid in a key position that might affect the outcome of a game within earshot of your kids, just ask youself, "What lesson have I just taught my kids?" Til, then.......Game On!

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