This weekend we are participating in a fantastic triathlon! The Heartland Tri has become our Father’s Day tradition! On Saturday, the little ones will race, and on Sunday, our big kids and David will race. What an amazing opportunity for competition, character, and endurance.
Children from ages 6 – 16 will swim, bike, and run their hearts out. I remember doing this race at it’s inception about nine years ago, and most kids had on bikinis and wee ones still had the streamers on their handle bars! This year, there will be tri teams galore with professional suits and bikes worth more than most people’s first car!
I don’t say this in a critical manner, because truthfully, kids triathlon racing has come a long, long way in the 14 years our kids have been involved in the sport. Parents have created a market for the children to have fantastic equipment, and that is a good thing. But sometimes, with all this investment, comes pressure. Pressure to perform. And that is never good.
Listen folks, this is supposed to be fun. And here may be a piece of the problem:
If we are looking to teach our children diligence out on the field or in the race, that is truly the wrong place to do it. If we want them to learn endurance through sports, we will constantly be pushing performance. These character issues are something worked out over years of toilet cleaning, grass mowing, weeding, window washing and dog poop scooping. Plain ol’ manual labor and a happy attitude doing it.
By the time they get to the field for practice, they should have earned the right to be there because they have proven themselves hard workers and earned the spot. Come race day, we should be cheering, “Great job! You’re doing it! You’re doing great!” because we know our children. We know if they COULD go faster, they would. If there was an ounce left in them to push harder, they would be pushing harder. This is not the time to be yelling things like, “Harder! Push it! Go faster! Hurry!” If we are doing that, we are denouncing and discrediting all their effort, as though what they are doing is not good enough for US.
And for heaven’s sake, lets remember, they race or compete FOR THEMSELVES, NOT FOR US. Not for our bragging rights, not for our water cooler conversations at work or Facebook. They are racing for themselves, to beat their best time or show some small improvement…unless it is just an off day and they felt like a lead weight out there. In that case, hug ’em and tell them you thought they looked great and you’re sure it is because they are growing or getting over a cold or whatever! Let’s not tear down their efforts and their hard work. Ever.
Most parents are unaware of the pressure they are placing on their children. At races, I’ve seen several children and even teenagers CRYING during the race. What in the world? Why are they crying? This is supposed to be fun!
If today you aren’t first place, then maybe next week, or next month! Even if you have Olympic dreams, at twelve, there is no reason to be crushing yourself. And if, as a parent, we see this type of behavior becoming apparent in our child during competition, we REALLY need to work this out.
Can character be taught through sports? Yes.
Is it the main place for that training? NO.
Let’s check our hearts. Watch some videos of our kids competing and listen to what we are yelling.
And my favorite suggestion? If you haven’t done a race or competed in the sport your child is involved in, sign up and do so. It will give you a good dose of humility to go through one of their competitions. And a bit of respect for the kid on the course.
…One day, I’ll tell you the story about me doing a triathlon. And I didn’t get my hair wet. Just imagine the horror on my family’s faces when I was doggy-paddling the swim…