“But no one escapes this world unhurt, emotionally if not physically.”
Not to put a damper on your day, but this quote in a recent Boston Globe article jumped out at me. It talks about parents, youth athletics and reasons why “kids aren’t playing.” I’ll admit. It is a touchy subject. But I absolutely love and appreciate the argument it raises. As someone who has grown up around sports, I simply cannot imagine my life without them. However, they are not the end all be all. And for parents: sports do not define your children.
Sports shouldn’t define any athlete: young, old, athletic, not athletic, naturally talented, hard working, driven, or participating just to participate. Not to disregard the kids themselves as a source of blame- but parents are often the ones who lose sight of this notion. From a player perspective, whether it was middle school, high school, or college, I never quite understood why parents would insert themselves in situations when their kids weren’t playing.
Since when does every single player get playing time? In what sense do parents think their kids are entitled to playing time? It drives me nuts when the coaches or other players are automatically victimized. I am not a parent and will not be one for a while. But, honestly, what message are you sending? It seems like a lesson of placing the blame on other people when things aren’t going your way.
This is where I would say ownership comes in. Ask your kid what’s going on. Ask how practice is going. Ask their opinions of why they think they aren’t playing. Don’t just assume they deserve to be playing and get upset about it. Take ownership yourself and expect the same from your kids. It could solve a lot of problems.
I say this because, yes, even as a college basketball player, I have rode the bench plenty. I’m not embarrassed to admit that. Why? Because I had parents and mentors who told me to get over it, to work harder, to not give up on something I really care about. It is absolutely true: no one escapes this world unhurt. Things don’t go your way. Coaches miss what you bring to the table. So what! Show them differently.
The earlier we realize that, the less parents will have to say. Sports can be an incredible outlet for growth when approached with a truly competitive mindset. Maybe it’s just me, but thinking everyone should play is far from a competitive mindset. The best players play. The hardest working players play. The most gifted players play. Anything less than that is a harsh reality: they probably don’t play.
Where many parents are mistaken is 1) thinking their kid should be playing without any grasp, or unrealistic expectations, of the situation and 2) pointing the fingers elsewhere. Just because your kid doesn’t play doesn’t mean it will always be that way. But if it is constantly the coach’s fault, and never a matter of ownership, chances are your kid will never understand what it means to compete. And to me, competing means to find what is wrong and doing everything you can to fix it.
Food for thought.