Web Exclusives: Enjoy the Game
BS: What most parents are finding out is that 70% of kids are dropping out of sports by the age of 13, and do you know why? According to Sports Illustrated it’s because the adults who are involved, particularly their own parents, have turned the playing of games into a joyless, negative experience. Shame on us! The things that I learned about life after age 13 by playing sports is extremely invaluable. I could not have learned it in a math class, or science class, or history class or anywhere else. I was going to learn it on the field of competition. We’re depriving 70% of our kids, because what they’re going to say is ‘I’d rather go play X-Box. Nobody yells at me during X-Box. I’m going to sit and home and watch TV.’
People are always saying that our society is overweight because of fast food. That’s not why we’re overweight. We’re overweight because we’re driving our kids away from having fun and having competition. Now, it’s probably a blend of both, but our kids are becoming coach-potatoes. They’re sitting around doing nothing. We drove them away from playing sports. Even just the neighborhood games because we’re so protective, which is a whole other issue. If it’s not organized the kids won’t do it. And if it is organized, they won’t do it because it’s too much pressure.
How do you know if your child is ready for competition?
BS: I get asked how to know whether or not kids are competitive. How do parents know when to start pushing them? Here’s how. Thirty minutes after the game is over, does your son or daughter still remember the score? If they don’t know what the score was, they’re not ready for competition. All they want is recreation. If they know the score and know how they did, then maybe it’s time to start asking them how serious they want to be an athlete. But there are too many 6, 7, 8-year-olds who couldn’t care less what the score was. All they wanted to do was hang around their friends and have some fun, and the parents are walking around like it’s the World Series. The kids aren’t ready for that! So they need to know that players aren’t perfect. We have to encourage each other rather than beat each other up.
Who’s the first person to know when a mistake has been made? That person. How would you want to be treated if you just made a mistake? Do you want your friends to come over to you and say “Man, you’re awful! I can’t believe you couldn’t hit that ball!” So why would you say that to one of your teammates? You should go over and say, “Keep your head up. You’ll get the next one.” They need to encourage each other rather than beat each other up.
What can parents do if they've blown it with their kids? Once the thought pattern is there that kids don't have to respect authority, and the kids have seen their parents yelling at coaches and officials, what can a parent do to instill a different lesson in their child?
BS: They have to humble themselves, go back to them and say, “Man, have I learned a lot about me and the things I’ve taught you. I’ve messed it up, but I’m going to change.” It’s the Christian aspect of repentance. Saying, “I acknowledge that the condition of my spirit was not right. What I was thinking about, what my vision has been, what my passion has been, what my mission has been, has been skewed. I know the way I’m supposed to act, and I hope you’ll forgive me. Here are some examples of things I’ve done wrong. I’ve backstabbed your coach. I’ve talked bad about your teammates. I’ve embarrassed you by yelling at the officials. I won’t do these things again. I’m going to learn to enjoy the game, and I really hope that you’ll give me another chance.”
As Christians, how should we conduct ourselves on the field when we’re tempted to give in to a display of anger?
BS: That’s like anywhere. It’s about self-discipline. How much self-discipline do you have? What is the value in what you’re about to do? It’s a temporal value even if you do win. Even if you yell at that official, and he changes his call, is that really going to be that big of a deal? In the big scope of it all, is that the best lesson to be learned?