There was a great article in the Chicago Tribune today focusing on the rising "costs" of competitive youth sports. It shows the adults role in a child's athletic development and discusses how we "are measuring our performance as parents based on how our kids are doing," in many cases on the field. Sound familiar? Sound ridiculous? It probably should.
On Father's Day I wrote about how my own sports experience was enhanced based on a "hands-off" approach that allowed me to ask for advice when I needed it rather than having criticism forced upon me at the rink or during already lengthy car rides home. The result was that I was allowed to love the sport of hockey, so much so that after my playing days were over, I chose to make the game, my profession.
The article in the Tribune today was also about the joy kids can get out of athletics when parents don't get in their own way. This includes those who do their best to shout orders from the stands throughout youth activities. It is an art, sadly, practiced and perfected, by many.
My "hockey mind" and ability to see the game and the plays within it develop, work better from the top floor of an Arena looking down on the action, than in real-time when playing on the ice. The same is true for most parents at their local rink. Many of the adults who look on and scream in frustration when their child cannot make the play they see as obvious, have never even laced up a pair of skates themselves. Unfortunately, that won't stop them from telling their youngster what to do next on the ice, even if it results in embarrassment or public humiliation.
As adults, we need to hold our children accountable for certain things. It is why we set expectations with regards to behavior and so many areas of life within our homes. But at the end of the day, what we really want to see is an honest effort. We have all of the patience in the world when our children face the challenges of learning how to read or ride a bike. We slowly walk them through the process, respect the fact that they are trying their best at what, to them at the time, are difficult tasks, and we take pride and find joy in their progress and eventual successes. All of that seems to change when we watch from our seats and a puck is dropped.
There are countless reasons for these drastic and irrational shifts in personality. We forget or don't know how hard it is for our kids to skate, let alone see a play develop and execute it. We invest, in many cases, too much of our money and time in their athletic endeavors and as a result feel it is "our game," too. Ultimately, we "coach" because we care and want to see our children do their very best.
The last part is important and a key to seeing our kids do well in all areas of life. Just make sure that by caring too much, you are not driving your young athlete away from the game that they may love. Applaud their efforts and respect the fact that proper execution will take time. If you can do that, your child will then have a chance to love the game as much as you do.
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