The first thing out of a kid’s mouth when something doesn’t go their way is typically along the lines of, “it’s not fair!” And what’s your response as a parent? Probably the same as mine, “Life isn’t fair!” The unfairness of life is painfully felt by many kids in youth sports. All three of my kids felt it at one time or another. Perhaps you and your child have felt it too. The reality is that coaches don’t always reward discipline and coachability.
Playing time will not always be based on hard work or skill. Kids who don’t work as hard and who have bad attitudes will occasionally get starting spots over more deserving players. Some players get yanked after one mistake, others mess up over and over and never get pulled. The unfairness goes on and on. New issues every season, in every sport. The question is not, “how can I protect my child from unfairness?” but rather, “how can I help my child deal with the unfairness?”
Three keys to helping your child handle the unfairness of sports
- Remember that coaches are human
They may play favorites, and they probably have pre-determined ideas about who should start. Yes, it’s frustrating, but there’s really not much you can do short of getting the coach fired. And what exactly does that teach your kids? That it’s okay to get rid of people we don’t agree with?
- Forget about what you can’t control and focus on what you can
You or your child cannot control playing time or starting spots, but you can control your attitudes and your child can control how hard they work. Together, focus on those things because if you have any hope of changing the unfairness, it will come through hard work and a good attitude, not through complaining and whining.
- Play for the love of the game
Our son once played for a coach who never seemed happy with his performance no matter how hard he worked in practice or in games. It came pretty darn close to robbing him of his love for the game, but we kept reminding him to play for the love of the game. We encouraged him to play for himself and for his teammates, not for his coach’s approval, because it was pretty obvious that he wasn’t going to get it. “You won’t always be playing for him,” we told our son, and not all coaches are unfair. In fact, a good many of them are reasonable, caring individuals who really want to help kids. Keep your goals in mind and keep working hard. Hopefully the next coach you have will be one of the good ones!
How you help your child deal with the unfairness of youth sports will be yet another lesson learned in the arena of competition that can prepare them for life. As an adult, they will undoubtedly want to scream—but they’ll learn to stay strong thanks to their experience in youth sports.
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