My youngest had a basketball game today.
He felt discouraged.
The good news is that they only lost by five points today instead of by the twenty plus point losses they have been enduring all season.
Still, my boy walked back to the bench with his head hanging and his shoulders sagging.
I go over and give him a hug. “You played some really good defense today,” I say to the top of the sweaty head that is buried against my stomach.
A grumpy voice mumbles into my shirt, “I didn’t like the refs. Joe got fouled and they didn’t even call it.”
“Well,” I sigh, “that’s the thing about basketball. The refs are going to call it the way they see it, whether you agree with them or not. That’s their job. And what is your job?”
He takes a breath so deep that his shoulders lift. I can feel him rolling his eyes at me as he admits, “To be an athlete”.
“That’s right,” I nod, hugging him a little tighter. “And you did that really well today.”
“But we still lost,” he argues.
“Yes, you did,” I agree, “but did you do your best?”
“And that’s what matters, lovey,” I say, detaching myself from him so that I can get down and look him in the eyes. “And I know that sometimes it feels like your best is not enough, and I’m sorry for that, because really, it really is enough. It’s everything.”
“But we lost,” he repeats, a tape stuck in a continuous loop.
I nod, “ And I’m proud of you. You played hard all the way through. You didn’t argue with the refs or get mad at the other team or pout when you got subbed out. You encouraged your teammates. You all worked together and listened to your coach. And…you played some stellar defense.”
His face lights up. “Yeah, did you see when I stole the ball?!”
“I did! And you blocked that shot in the third quarter.”
“Yeah,” he says. His eyes are bright with the excitement as he stands up and goes into instant replay mode. “He was coming down the court and he threw the ball up and I stretched out really far, like this, with both hands and the ball kinda ran into my hands and my hand bent back, like this.”
I smile at him and agree, “You did. It was just like that! It was totally awesome!”
He sighs with satisfaction and turns away from me to walk back to the bench to get his gear.
My heart bursts with pride for my little man and I am thankful for the lecture I went to last summer about the role of parents in athletics.
It was offered to parents of high school athletes, but I have found the information I was given has been useful for all of my children.
It was presented by a man named Bruce Brown. He gives talks to parents of athletes, sharing with them the things he has learned in his thirty-five years of being a teacher and coach.
Here’s what I came away with:
At any kind of athletic competition, there are four different jobs available.
You need to pick your job before the competition starts.
You can only choose one.
Once you have chosen your job, you need to stick with it for the entire contest.
Your choices are:
I always choose fan.
As a fan, my job is:
- Be present.
Do everything I can to make it a positive experience for my child.
Accept the decisions of the coaches and the officials.
Encourage everyone on the team, not just my child.
Be a good role model.
Attempt to relieve competitive pressures rather than add to them.
Understand why my child plays and accept and support his reasons.
Be a confidence builder by maintaining perspective and making sure that my child doesn’t feel as though his self-worth is tied to playing time or the outcome of the contest.
I love Bruce Brown for teaching me this. It makes it so much easier to go to athletic events.
He taught me that:
- It doesn’t really matter if I feel as though my child needs to warm up sooner or hustle or be more engaged. That’s the coach’s job. If the coach has a problem with it, the coach will talk to my child about it; if not, then it’s not a problem.
The officials are not going to change a call just because I yell at them. My dissing of the officials only teaches my child that being disrespectful is okay as long as I think the other person is wrong.
My child will give as much or as little effort as he chooses. He needs to learn how to listen to his body and I need to respect what he hears.
It has been liberating.
I no longer have to worry about the calls or second guess the coach or remind my child to remember to use this or that skill. Those things are someone else’s responsibility. Those are the jobs of the coaches, officials and the athletes.
My job is to encourage and appreciate.