He walked over to the sidelines with a frown on his face. Another tie. But I was still proud.
My son had just finished his last soccer game of the weekend. In this particular game, he spent most of his time battling against one of those nine-year-olds who has a five o’clock shadow and drove to the game. As soon as my son got to me, I turned him around so that he could see the giant he had been going up against. I spoke into his ear.
I told him to look at how big that kid was. I told him that he virtually shut down that big kid for the entire game. I told him that he had done what most kids his age would have been too scared to do. By “most kids,” I meant me when I was his age. There was no way that the nine-year-old version of myself would have gone against that kid. But my son did. And I was proud. So I told him.
I told him that he was brave.
I told him that he acted like a man out there.
That’s what I love about youth sports. For all that tends to go wrong at practices and games across our country due to overbearing parents, out of control coaches and spoiled kids, there is still a lot of good that comes from these weekend rituals.
It’s important that parents not rely on a sport to do for their kids what only a parent was designed to do. It’s been said that sports builds character. Maybe so. But the character that’s built isn’t always good. It’s the parent’s job to shape, add to or even tear down what’s being built.
Parents, your kid’s sport should be a tool in your tool box not a babysitter to occupy their time or a god to master them.
From the time when they were babies, I taught my sons how to listen. When they were old enough to kick a ball and have a coach, my sons started to become listeners. The living room and kitchen table are the classrooms where my sons learned their lessons about integrity, listening and effort. The playing field and the school playground are the internships where they’re able to put what they have learned into practice. Like their father, they don’t always do it right. That’s okay. Class is always in session back home in the living room and at the kitchen table.
Your kids may not get a college scholarship because of their sport. But they will have to make tough decisions. They will have to deal with difficult people. They will be tempted to quit when they need to go on.
It’s then when they’ll think back to their youth sports days. The days when they were first able to live out what you taught them. They’ll think about the giant they had to defend. And they’ll carry on with what needs to be done. Because that’s what their sport taught them.
Youth sports can be costly. You can pay dearly with your wallet and your schedule. But if you’re smart, you’ll be glad that you did. Even if your kid can’t one day pay you back with a scholarship or signing bonus. You are making memories together that will not soon be forgotten. But, more than that, you are making men and women.
And sports is one of the best tools you can use.