I few weeks ago I attended an indoor soccer tournament with my oldest son Kyle and brought along all of his siblings to watch (as is what often happens on weekends). When we arrived there was a championship game going on between a group of 11-year-old boys and it was a rather heated soccer match. But what shocked me (quite honestly) was overhearing the conversation between a boy that was sitting on the floor in front of us watching the game and his Dad, who was actually berating his 11-year-old son for not performing better and “making it to the finals”. Now as far as I was concerned, this was a simple indoor soccer tournament. There was nothing “at stake here”, nothing that was dependent upon this kid winning, nothing bad that was going to happen because he lost. Unless of course you count having to ride home with his Dad.
Now truly I do love the fact that my kids enjoy playing sports. I love the cardio workout that they get, I love that they have the chance to play and to be a part of a team, I love that that they are coached by someone who cares about and is passionate about the game- whatever game it is that they’re playing. But it’s the parents who believe that so much rides on the outcomes of these games that really frustrates me. Yes, I know that it would be really great if my kids get the chance to play soccer or football or baseball or swimming or whatever it is their heart desires at a high school level. And it would also be lovely if my kids have a chance to go on and play the sport that they love at the college-level perhaps even earning a little college scholarship money. Who wouldn’t love that?
And I have to allow for the fact, that maybe the only way that my kids are ever going to sincerely reach that level of play- is if they have pushy parents who encourage (or push) them to play at that level- every day, even at age 11. But do I want to be that parent?
Personally, I think it’s far more important that my kids just develop a natural love of athletics and sportsmanship, and want to get out and play “the game” for the love of it….. because for 99% of the population, that’s all that sports are ever going to be- a fun activity, not a career.
Think this parenting behavior is limited just to kids and sports? Oh no.
That same weekend I also had the chance to take my 9-year old son Jack to a chess tournament. And because I was desperate to secure a seat next to a wall outlet (hey- a woman’s gotta blog and these things last for 6-8 hours!) I was also seated next to the place where they post the pairings and the results. So I had the pleasure of watching parents who were far too invested in their child’s chess-playing outcome, assess the situation. One Dad in particular made me nuts and I watched him conferring with his son over the standings between rounds, “psyching his child up” for his next round with phrases like, “If you can win this next one, you’ll be in first place for sure….” and then insisting that they go for a walk together outside of the room, “to clear his mental focus”. This boy was 6, maybe 7 tops.
Whatever happened to just building skills and doing things for enjoyment? Or am I just not getting this whole thing? What do you think? Do I need to become a little more invested and start taking these sports and activities more seriously? (After all, we are paying a fortune for some of these things!) Please leave me a comment and tell me what you think!
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