Kids and parents and sports

I got into a teeny tiny spat yesterday with a big burly guy from another team. From my perspective, he was making a very big deal about something very minor and kept whining about it. Every time he said something about it, I replied with basically the same thing in different ways. Something to the tune of “It’s a summer league…fun for kids.”

I chided myself for not letting it drop until he stopped, but I think I kept at him in an attempt to maintain some perspective. The kids are not vying for Olympic gold and a kajillion dollars. Life does not hang in the balance. The cure for cancer is not on the line. People won’t be executed or jailed if they don’t perform well. It’s still just a bunch of kids swimming. For the ones who swim year-round, summer league is supposed to be fun for them — at least in our league. For those who only swim in the summer, summer league is supposed to be fun for them.

You’d never know it by the way a good many parents and coaches act.

Excellence, discipline and winning above all else appears to be the standard mindset. I could be wrong, but that’s what I see. They’re kids. Children. Still so young, with, hopefully, lots of life ahead of them. They won’t always be small and tender and huggy and squeezy. Many will drop out of whatever sport they’re in right now. A gigantically huge percentage will not become the next famous name.

Do I want my kids to win? Most definitely. I cheer them on and I would love seeing either one of my kids totally beat the pants off your kid. Do I ream them out when they don’t? Of course not. What would be the point? High fives when they win. High fives for personal bests and excitement. Hugs when they stumble and are disappointed. It’s for their fun. For their enjoyment. For them. My worth is not on the line. Their worth is not on the line. Even the most talented in the world do not always win in life. Sports should be a good, less heart-breaking venue to learn lessons about losing.

When my oldest daughter started showing a talent for swimming, I asked her coach how to know when to take it to the next level. How do I know if I should just let her be? I mean, what if God gave her a gift simply for her enjoyment? How do I know? Her coach said to wait and let her decide. I can’t manufacture the want for her, she needs to be the one who wants it. Otherwise, she will burn out right as she should be starting to peak and then she’ll end up hating it and want nothing to do with it anymore.

I am not here to put other parents down or tell them how to do their job. Really, I’m not. I don’t know what goes on in another family’s world and what their motivations are. I assume most people are doing all they can or know how for their child’s best. I’m just taken a little aback by the timing of a few things that happened at yesterday’s meet juxtaposed against a simple question my youngest asked me the other day as we were driving around town: Mom, as a mom, what do you want most in this world?

Her question had absolutely nothing to do with whatever we had been talking about and it took me by surprise. I got a little choked up and couldn’t answer her for several minutes. The answer came right away in my mind, but I couldn’t get the words out right away.

What I want most in this world is for you to know that Jesus is real and that He loves you beyond comprehension. The world will try to tell you all kinds of things but if I don’t somehow teach you that He is really real and loves you then I have failed as a parent. 

The answer was not that she win every race she swims or that she get into XYZ University or that she become an award winning doctor/actress/scientist. The answer was and always will be that she know Jesus. The choice to believe or not is hers, and hers alone. I won’t love her any less if she rejects every single thing I ever teach her. I just hope it never comes to that. I can put her in a position to learn and see and grow, but cannot create belief in her—that will have to be her decision.

Maybe every once in a while we need to hear the child’s voice ask what we want most in life for them. The answer will help define what is truly important and which direction we should go. Is winning fun and good? Absolutely! Is that all there is to life? Not by a long shot.


2 thoughts on “Kids and parents and sports

  1. When I was a kid, there were never sports practices on Wednesday or Sunday. Those days were reserved for church attendance. So not the case now. Kids pick up what parents think is important, don’t they?


    • They really do. Unfortunately kids can also misunderstand parents’ thoughts and actions because they don’t have life experience. Don’t these people ever watch TV? Problems with parental expectations has got to be in at least the top five as a story telling theme.


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