A parenting perspective that will change the face of youth sports
Your child will not be playing sports forever.
Whether or not your child is a star is irrelevant. For every athlete, at some point, the glory days must end. Whether your son or daughter quits playing at 14 or 24, the question remains: What sort of person will he be when his playing days are over? What do parents get in return for all the money, hours, and emotional energy poured into growing athletes? Two years ago, my then 23-year-old daughter played her last college softball game.
For 15 years, softball had been a huge part of her life. We forked out a lot of money for travel ball, catcher’s equipment and hitting lessons. And for what? So she could graduate and never play again? Well, technically yes. But we know that her softball experience was a lot more about who she became than what she accomplished. Our daughter is a stronger, braver, more unselfish person because of all the lessons she learned while playing. Those experiences played a huge part in making her the wonderful young woman she is today. She teaches kindergarteners, and the patience and persistence she learned on the softball field has helped her be a better teacher in the classroom.
This fall, my 22-year-old son finished his college football career. In high school, he was an outstanding QB. We paid for QB camps and personal training. In college, however, he never moved past his backup role. So did we waste our time and money on a football career that ended in him being a backup college QB? No, we did not. Playing sports has helped shape our son into a strong, caring, sure-minded young man. We are very proud of who he has become. And now our youngest is playing college volleyball, fighting for her spot and growing up in the process.
Playing sports brings excitement and recognition. It may even help pay for college and open doors for the future, but nothing will ever be more important than the type of person your son or daughter becomes in the process. Perhaps you’ve already seen some of the character benefits of playing sports: self-discipline, a good work ethic, unselfishness, persistence, and a balanced perspective of life. Press clippings and stats will come and go, but these positive character traits will be part of your young athlete’s DNA for life. Sure, it’s fun to get pats on the back as a parent whose child performs well.
Yeah, we love to read our kid’s name in the paper or see her on the 11 o’clock sports show. But “what good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” We’ve seen the results of athletes who gain the whole world, athletically speaking, and yet lose their character in the process. This stuff, the recognition and success, is not really what our kids’ sports experience should be about. Instead, sports should teach our children to have integrity and strength.
With that perspective parents can change the culture of youth sports.