Can You Coach the "Love of the Game"?
The "Love of the Game" is a phrase you have probably heard many times if you follow sports. Typically when an athlete reaches a very high level in their sport they speak of how they have this love of their sport, that helps to drive them, makes them want to play it more, and ultimately helps them become great. As a former athlete who does have the love of the game, and as my kids youth sports coach I have begun to notice it in my kids as well as some of their teammates and opponents. Where does this come from? Can this "love of the game" actually be coached, taught, and instilled in your children or the players you coach? I am not so sure of that, but I am sure that you can influence this love.
It's Only Weird If You're Not Into Sports
What I am about to say next, is probably something you will only see on a sports site. I am pretty certain my "first true love" was the game of basketball, with baseball probably being a close second. These sports were the first things, or people, I really loved. I wanted to be around them all the time, I thought about them all the time, I went to sleep dreaming of them (posters on my wall), sometimes I didn't want to let them go (slept with a favorite ball or glove), and I even fantasized ("5, 4, 3, 2, 1...he shoots and it's good!" or "2 outs, bottom of the 9th...here's the pitch...").
How I Developed "The Love of the Game"
I do not remember being coached to love either basketball or baseball. As I notice my kids loving sports, I have not done any coaching "the love" myself. However, I do remember my dad doing a few things that may have influenced this love. His actions, and my observation of them may have lead me to love them. Just like my actions, and my kids observation of them may be leading to their love of the game. Three things come to mind when I think about loving something. The three of them combined can influence any child to develop a "love of the game."
When you love someone or something you want to be around them as much as you can. You just cannot get enough. My parents took us to games all the time. My dad coached our little league teams. We attended almost all of our local high school games, we drove an hour to watch pro basketball games, we drove an hour and a half to watch pro baseball games. We played in the backyard, we played Nerf inside, we played at the YMCA, we watched March Madness, the NBA Playoffs and Finals, we watched the World Series together. There isn't much difference with me and my kids.
I coach them in their youth leagues, we play in the backyard, and we play in the house. When there is a big game on, I invite them to watch with me. We go to high school games, cheer on our favorite college teams, and NBA players. Spending time in any relationship grows the relationship. We spent a lot of time with basketball and baseball.
Respecting the Game
When you love someone, or something you have a great deal of respect. The dictionary defines respect as, "being honored or esteemed; someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges." My dad definitely gave sports an honored position, as we watched and played a lot of sports. We showed up to practices and games when we were supposed to, and I've done the same thing with my kids. When you respect something, you don't waste it's time or your time. So, if you are practicing your sport you take it seriously. You work hard, and you do your very best. As the saying goes, "you leave it all on the court."
Have Fun Playing the Game
If you don't enjoy something, it will be very difficult to love it. Fun cannot be forced. If I didn't enjoy playing sports, no matter what my dad did, he could not have made me love the game. No matter how many games he took me to, how much he had me practice, or how many balls, gloves, jerseys or hats. The fact that it was fun to me opened me up so I could learn to love it. My kids are the same way.
Our middle son didn't have much interest in sports initially, but now I can see him having fun. Playing with his friends, practicing and getting better, and competing. He seems to enjoy them all. Our daughter has been the same way, and our three year-old is well on his way. And do not get fun confused with skill or success. I have witnessed many kids with very little skill or success, but still love is still developing.
The Love of the Game Grows Naturally
This love happens, it isn't coached or taught like a fundamental of a sport. However, the exposure, your involvement, the way you interact with the sport can influence your kid to have that love that so many great players have, and that sometimes leads them to greatness. If your child has not developed a love of the game, do not be concerned.
You can still have fun coaching them, playing with them, and watching them.
The most important thing is you spending time with him/her and growing your love of one another. Question: Do you, or your children, have the "love of the game" for a particular sport? If so, what contributed to developing this love?