We so often hear the negative side of youth sports. Trust me, I get it. I’ve seen the overly involved parents living vicariously through their kids. I’ve done a double-take when finding out a uniform costs more than my car payment. And yep, I’ve met the families who act like they are raising the next professional athlete, even though their kids are the ripe old age of seven. Take a breath, folks. You might not have the next Michael Jordan or Megan Rapinoe on your hands. And that’s okay.
I grew up playing team sports. When I was younger, “youth sports” consisted of softball in the summer until we hit middle school and the world opened up to things like volleyball, basketball, cross-country, track, and cheerleading. I’m a joiner, so I pretty much tried them all. I ended up focusing most of my time and effort on volleyball. I was naturally better at that sport and enjoyed it more. Some of my best memories of growing up stem from that volleyball team. The camaraderie, the friendships, the competition, and the dedication to practice taught me invaluable lessons that I feel set the bar high for how I now approach my career, my family, and just life in general.
My seven-year-old daughter takes part in a couple different sports and soccer is one of them. She is not the best player on the team. I wouldn’t even throw her in the category of “one of the best” on the team. But she enjoys playing, tries hard, and hustles–and that’s frankly all I care about. I admittedly am not a giant soccer fan. I did not grow up playing it. I don’t understand all the rules. It’s just not my most favorite sport, but I do love watching my daughter play, because I love seeing her learn the same important lessons I learned through sports.
While sitting through another freaking cold match, I was able to take in just how much this first grade soccer match could teach all of us. First off, it’s a group of kids having fun. What’s more important than having fun? They’re learning how important it is to practice and why you have to keep doing it to get better. I have to remind myself of this weekly when I screw something up when trying it for the first time. Rarely is anyone awesome at something the very first time they do it.
The kids are also learning respect. They learn to respect their coaches, their teammates, their competitors, and themselves. They are learning how to be good sports. If the parents are solid, the kids are learning how to be humble if they are awesome and how to brush it off and keep their heads up if they aren’t. Watching the girls on the soccer field is always inspiring for me. If they have a teammate who scores a goal, there’s no jealousy. It’s all high fives and hugs and maybe an occasional cartwheel! If someone has a giant kick, misses the ball, and falls down, those girls are running to help her up, to make sure she’s okay. Why can’t we all be more like that as adults? How amazing would it be to celebrate each other’s victories more instead of getting jealous or wondering why it didn’t happen for us? When our friends or family are down, why can’t we focus more on picking them up and making sure they are okay? Let’s be honest. We’ve all had some big swings and misses in our lives.
Finally, there are snacks after every soccer match. Snacks make everyone happier, right?
So instead of immediately focusing on what we don’t like about youth sports or whatever the item of the day is, let’s allow our kids to teach us a lesson and provide us with some reminders about the basics that will make all of us a little better in the long run.