Dad, I Need Grit (part 1): Who do our kids play for?

Who do our kids play for?

I have heard it said that grit is where passion meets perseverance. Who knows what our kids will become passionate about? At times we try to instill into them what sport we love and somehow hope they may become a better version of us. And most of the time they do participate and possibly excel at that sport, albeit baseball or football or basketball or whatever. 

But how can a parent instill perseverance? Passion is hard enough, but perseverance? That’s another mountain to climb. The incredibly difficult thing for us parents to get our heads around is the more we push to help grow this quality in our young athletes, the less chance they have of learning it. 

The more we try to prepare them for failure by interfering in the failure process the more likely we will see their passion wane and perseverance disappear. (More about this in part 2)

In the television series BREAKING BAD there is a pertinent scene towards the end of the last episode between Walter White and his estranged wife. Walter has come to say one final goodbye before he brings retribution upon those that have caused him to suffer most. He begins to say to his wife, “I did this all…” and she cuts him off with a scolding rebuke saying she doesn’t want to hear it again, (that) I did this all for you and the family. He waits for her to finish and starts again, “I did this all for me. I did it because I liked it. I did it because I was good at it.”

Walter White had a reason why he did what he did. Though he wasn’t honest with anyone around him, let alone himself during the whole six or seven seasons of the show, this moment of clarity to what drove him gave all the fans of the series (and his estranged wife) a sense of closure because finally Walter had spoken truth. 

What will keep our young athletes striving to be the best they can in the game of baseball or anything they apply themselves to? There’ll be many factors that will help them persevere. But if they can come to the reality of why they’re doing something and that why is based on something gratifying within themselves, then their focus will be unwavering. 

“I’m doing this for me. I’m doing it because I like it. I’m doing it because I think I’m good at it.”

Very rarely will a pre-teen athlete know if a particular sport or activity is the one and only goal they have in life. Later, a parent can see the focus and vision of the child by how much time and initiation she or he is putting into the particular sport. The crucial factor for anyone applying themselves to any sporting game is are they enjoying what they’re doing. Some, however, may say to me:

“Don’t give me this pettiness about enjoyment and having fun. My kid is here to win. I’m here to win. My kid is a winner. I’m a winner. I don’t raise losers in my household. I’ve never seen a kid enjoy losing… they’ll thank me in the end.”  

Fair point. Though I’ve never seen a kid enjoy being overshadowed by their dominant parent who enforces their vision and expectations upon them.

I’ve heard disgruntled parents saying, kids will give up the sport if they remain on this losing team surrounded by poor players. Similar to also hearing, if my child is not around the better players, he won’t be pushed and will lose interest in the game.

Parents, I’ve never seen this. I’ve seen parents lose interest, and influence their kids with their attitude; I’ve seen parents make their agenda and feelings perfectly known.  

I’ve only seen a youth player walk away from the sport because they were already not interested or not excited about the game. Yes, the coach may have had something to do with this, but my point is, if we can’t put a lid on our agenda and our ego, we will definitely confuse our athletes with why they’re playing and whom they’re playing for.

Is our dream clouding their dream? Is our desire to win their desire to win? Are we hindering or enhancing their simple enjoyment of the game?

Whether your child is showing promise in the game or is already an elite athlete, what keeps them in the game is if they enjoy it. It is disappointing to see a player of any ability out on the park looking like he or she is questioning themselves, why am I even out here.

Grit is a tough term to define. It is even tougher for human beings to live it. In fact, most of our kids may not be able to define their motives behind what they’re doing. 

But at some point what will keep our young athletes in the game and hopefully excelling at the game will be one if not all these things:

  • “I’m doing this for me.”
  • “I’m doing it because I like it.”
  • “I’m doing it because I think I’m good at it.”

- Mark Maguire

To follow

Part 2: Allow failure to work its magic.


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