I may be preaching to the choir here. Most of my readers are moms and dads who have truly committed to parenting, decided to raise up (or drag up, if necessary) amazing children. And I have preached on the importance of competition, and even how vital physical contact and endurance sports are in the well-rounded education and mental training of a young one. I believe that…completely.
But one thing I have not spoken nearly enough about is the even more important aspect of YOUR OUTLOOK while on the field, during the race, or even after the course is completed and around the dining room table.
Uh-huh. Yep. YOU.
First, let me ask you this question…have you ever competed, personally, in the sport your child is partaking in? IN ANY SPORT AT ALL? If so, then you probably have respect for the effort it takes, the sweat your child is putting into their competition, and the overall importance of encouragement. Keep it fun, for Heaven’s sake! If you HAVE NOT competed, then DO SO. IMMEDIATELY. If your kid does cross country, sign up for a 5k. If your kid does triathlons, do one. If your kid swims, find a master’s practice and just try it for a month. Once you have tried to do what they are doing, you will have a whole new level of respect for their efforts. And that is as it should be.
Because let me ask you this – second and equally VITAL question….
WHAT’S THE BLEEPIN’ POINT OF THE COMPETTION IN THE FIRST PLACE?
(Notice I did not say “bloody”? Y’all should be proud of me…)
Is the point to have the fastest 9 year old in the southeast region of the state? Even an 11 year old national champ? Because if that is YOUR goal, then beware, it may be YOUR goal, and you may have even coaxed junior into buying in….but pushing a kid like that likely means you’ll have a national champ at 11 and then a burnt out, ticked off, video-game-playing 21 year old. And that—is probably NOT your goal as a parent.
Over the last twenty years of following David from triathlon to triathlon I have seen a lot of kids who -20 years ago – were the 12 to 15 year old “hot shots.” They were being pushed and yelled at, pressured and dragged around by their parents, and these kids are all now burned out and completely NON ACTIVE. The buy-in was never there on the child’s part. Mostly because the parent never participated, only pressured.
But the guys who have been in endurance sports over the last 20 years…grew up enjoying it with their families, parents cheering and encouraging alongside, not pushing and yelling. They have made it a lifestyle…and at the end of the day, isn’t that what we want for our children? To lead them into a healthy lifestyle that involves physical activity and competition? My goal is not to have the fastest 9 year old in the state…it’s to have the fastest 98 year old still competing in marathons! I want my children to enjoy sports and competition for their lifespan, not just until they get an NCAA scholarship!
An example of a few things I heard yelled at 8 and 9 year olds this weekend:
“YOU’RE LOOSING! HURRY UP!”
“RUN FASTER! THEY ARE PASSING YOU! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO WIN!”
“I KNOW YOU CAN GO FASTER!”
Really folks? How about a nice loud yell of their name with a big smile on your face! How about telling them what a great job they are doing! How about yelling how proud you are of them! ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE DEAD LAST!
Again, I may be preaching to the choir. But do a heart check on yourself, your motivations next time when you step out on the field with junior or get into the course with your child. Make sure you are not pressuring them for your bragging rights or for you to show off their performance….but instead that you are using the sport as training ground for a lifetime of spiritual and mental lessons that can be sharpened through physical activity. Listen carefully to the videos you take while junior is on the field…what are you yelling and saying to him? Do you beam just as proudly when they are the last kid across the line in the track meet as if they ahd just won first? Because truly, every improvement, every effort is a step in the right direction. And it takes guts just to lace up. So encourage them. Strengthen their inner person by your uplifting words, and soon you will have a life-long athlete who will far exceed any performance all your yellin’ and condescension could have gotten anyhow.