Life lessons help to shape a kid into the adult they will become.
Playing sports offers a variety of life lessons and experiences for both the child and the parent. How you act after the game determines whether your kids truly win or lose.
To help our children evolve into well-rounded adults, we must expose them to a variety of experiences and help them with the life lessons picked up along the way.
Some life lessons come more easily than others.
Less than one out of every 15,000 little league or high school baseball players ever makes it to a major league roster.
Only 20,000 players can stake claim to having played our national pastime in the major leagues.
Yet, as parents, we invest in camps, travel teams, private lessons and off-season training for children who can barely tie the laces on their cleats. Many of our children compete in two or three sports a year; some even compete in two or three at the same time.
They travel hours for double and triple headers, weekend wrestling matches, or skip the little league postgame sodas to rush to his lacrosse game in another part of town.
So, when did extra-curricular activities take over our lives?
If you decide that off-season training for a 10 year old is a bit over the top, are you robbing your child of his future?
It is very easy to be caught up in the hoopla of peewee and high school sports. By age six, Pop Warner teams dress their players in full pads and expect a time commitment similar to high school practices.
It is a common notion that the parents enjoy it more than the kids, evidenced by the number of children who miss practices, are late for games and quit all together after two or three years.
There are many benefits to participating in team sports. There has been a lot written about childhood obesity; any physical activity is a major step to overcoming that issue. Playing sports also provides social, emotional and physical benefits as well.
Children who play organized sports soon learn to think about the group as a whole and measure team success before personal achievement. They also learn self-discipline and control, respect for tradition and the need to work hard to achieve success. All sports require a measure of practice, patience, and persistence and all are good life lessons.
Unfortunately, it is an unrealistic expectation that all children will compete on the same level and the negative influence of parents, who refuse to remain spectators, can ruin the experience of sports for all but the most highly skilled athletes.
Here are five life lessons to keep it real for both parent and child:
- Do not try to re-live your past athletic glory through your child.
Life lessons: It is hard not to recall past successes when your children participate in the same sport that you did. Do not pressure him or her to match or exceed your accomplishments and reassure him, win or lose, that you love, appreciate his efforts and are very proud of him.
- Let the coaches’ coach.
Life lessons: Resist the temptation to offer your two cents after every game, especially if it is in contrast to the advice that is being preached by the coach. Try to get to know the coach so that you are comfortable with his philosophy, techniques and knowledge of the game. Let him know you are happy to have your child under his leadership; then step back and let him coach your child. Being inundated with advice, pep talks and instruction by coaches can be overwhelming to your child; allow him some time alone, immediately after the game.
- It is not if you win or lose.
Life lessons: Unfortunately, few people really believe this. It is very tough to watch a hapless group of children throw the ball around, seemingly getting worse after every game. However, it happens and even losing offers a life lesson. Teach your children to enjoy the thrill of competition and always try their best, regardless of the score. Have your child set a personal goal to improve fielding, bunting or pitching skills and to cheer his teammates at all time. Help him to appreciate the time spent with other players, the need to try harder and the purpose of having fun.
- Do not take the fun out of the game.
Life lessons: After a brutal loss is not the time to schedule a session in the batting cages. It is not the time to head to the fields and practice ground balls. Nor is it the time to insist your Pop Warner player run wind sprints. They are kids. This is punishment reserved for older athletes. Win or lose, grab a slice of pizza, an ice cream cone or a burger and fries and enjoy the rest of the day as a family.
- Do not let outside criticism ruin it for your child.
Life lessons: Parents can be very cruel and often forget the players on the field are children. Never criticize your child or another player within earshot of another person, adult or child. Suggesting that the player who has great speed and no batting skills should try track and field or soccer may seem logical, yet it can also have a stinging effect if overheard by that child. Expressing dismay during a pitching change or commenting about the defensive skill of the right fielder may be true, but league rules require all players to participate in each game, regardless of skill.
The life lessons learned on the athletic fields are as important as the ones our children learn in the classroom.
It's up to parents to help their children apply life lessons learned from sports to other areas of their lives.
With a few precautions, these life lessons will result in happy memories for years to come!