Advice for Sports Dads

Father and Son Talking After Soccer GameHave you ever yelled at your kids and later regretted it?

Do you ever feel like maybe you expect too much from your young kids?

I know I’ve been guilty of both of those things, more times than I’d like to admit.

I recently read the classic book by Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends and Influence People. Well, technically I listened to it – three times so far – on Audible.

In the book, Carnegie republishes Father Forgets a powerful essay written by W. Livingston Larned. It originally appeared in an early 1920’s edition of People’s Home Journal. It’s still extremely relevant today.

The piece is basically a hard-driving father’s message to his young son acknowledging the unfair treatment he has given him. It’s his pledge to change his ways and see his boy as he is…just a boy…not a man.

It’s a great essay that every dad can resonate with. The first thing I thought of when I heard it was how much it could apply to Sports Dads. So I decided to republish it with a Sports Dad Hub spin on it. I hope you enjoy it.

Sports Dad Forgets

Listen, son; I am saying this as you lie asleep, snuggled under your NHL sheets, hugging your little stuffed puppy. I have come into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat on the couch scanning through Facebook, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside. 

There are things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for your game because your shirt was not tucked in. I took you to task for not cleaning your cleats. I called out angrily when you threw the ball wide of first base.

At soccer practice I found fault, too. You forgot your ball at home. You weren’t making your passes as hard as they needed to be. You shot the ball right at the goalie. And as you ran over to me after your practice with a big smile on your face and asked, “How did I do daddy?” and I frowned, and said in reply, “You need to do better next time!”

Then it began all over again when we got home. As I came up the road, I spied you, playing catch with your friends. You threw a few balls wildly. I humiliated you before your buddies by pulling you over to the side. “How many times have I told you to step right to your target and follow through when you throw? Do it right or don’t do it at all!” I said. Imagine that, son, from a Sports Dad!

Do you remember, later, when I was watching the game in the family room, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my iPad, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. "What do you want?" I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one enthusiastic plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my iPad slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding - this was my reward to your for being a boy who loved to play sports. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble apology; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you when you’re awake. But tomorrow I will be a real Sports Dad! I will joke with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will not criticize you for making mistakes during games and practices but instead applaud you for trying your best. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: "He is nothing but a boy - a little boy!"

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and tired in your bed, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother's arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

Thanks for reading,

-Kevin

Kevin Duy is a Sports Dad of three boys & writes on sports parenting. 

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