If you have a kid who plays sports, here are a few questions you should ask yourself before your cheer for him from the sidelines.
Are you encouraging him to do his best or are you pushing him to be better for you?
Are you, in any way, making her feel as though your love for her is based on her performance? That’s not so much a question just for you. We all know how you’ll answer that question. It’s probably best for you to ask your child that question. Her answer might be a little different than yours.
What lesson are you hoping to teach your son by terrorizing the referee of his game and ridiculing his team’s coach? Perhaps you have forgotten that sports exist for the primary purpose of teaching kids lessons. Not for scholarships. Not for your unmet expectations from your own childhood. Lessons. And, make not mistake, you are teaching lessons. Your silence teaches a lesson. Your private coaching teaches a lesson. Your obnoxious yelling teaches a lesson.
I was at several youth soccer games over the weekend and I was shocked by what I heard coming from the mouths of some parents. I shouldn’t have been. I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade now with my own kids. Long before becoming a father, I lived in an apartment complex that was right next to a youth baseball field. My Saturday morning alarm clock was some dad cursing at his son. But still, this weekend, I was surprised.
An overwhelming majority of the parents I encountered and observed were fantastic. They cheered with class. They encouraged their sons and daughters with passion. They took losses with dignity. I’m thankful for these parents. We need more like them. And, believe it or not, their kids actually need to hear them cheering them on and encouraging them to give their best effort.
But what they don’t need is to hear their parents screaming like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. They don’t need to hear their parents ridiculing other players on the field who have not been blessed with supreme, godlike athleticism. They don’t need to hear every coaching decision questioned at full volume. And they don’t need to hear the coach ripped to shreds for not giving your supreme, godlike athlete enough playing time while you break the game down on the way home.
Side note. If your kid is good, he’ll play. I’ve been around a lot of coaches and I’ve seen some crazy philosophies and eccentric personalities. But I’ve never come across a coach who said, “You know, that Billy is a fantastic player with the uncanny ability to help our team win but I’m not going to play him because I hate winning and I hate little Billy.” If your kid really has professional athlete potential, he’ll play. Settle down. If, like the rest of us, he never makes it to the pros, it won’t be because his little league coach put him at short stop instead of third base.
Winning is fun. Winning is important. Kids should be encouraged to win. Not keeping score and giving everyone a trophy is foolish. But winning is not the most important thing. You can win an awful lot of trophies vicariously through your kid and still lose your kid.
Which leads me to one final question that you should ask yourself before cheering for your kid. I’m borrowing from Jesus on this one.
What will it profit a parent if he gains a professional athlete but loses his child?