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Just showing up isn't good enough after awhile

Dear Lord, grant me the wisdom, the patience and the guidance to raise my children in a manner so that they are not weenies on the athletic field from a competitive standpoint but not so overly competitive that they turn into big, annoying jerks. Amen.
I’d love to say that’s the exact prayer I say before each of my children’s games, but the reality is that it wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I finally put those thoughts into a comprehensive statement.
This is, silly as it sounds, one of my greatest worries as a parent. It’s not necessarily about sports, per se, but sports are one of the best ways to teach the notion that anything worth doing is worth working at. That is, if you’re going to choose to participate in something, you’re going to put in the work to be your best, beyond what’s simply offered at practices.
But more and more this is something I see as a struggle. I’m the farthest thing there is from a win-at-all-costs type of personality, but I feel like we’re slipping into a place that forgets to teach our young people that preparation, performance and execution matter, even if winning does not.
My son is currently enrolled in a league that puts a premium on teaching fundamental skills while existing within a team atmosphere that stresses how we treat each other and the opposing team. These are truly wonderful lessons to learn.
But in their quest to teach life skills through sports, they’ve inadvertently stifled basic notion of passion and fire in the competitive arena.
The quest for excellence — performing a skill so well that it’s evident you’re head and shoulders beyond many of your peers and then executing that skill against competition — is being lost among our youth.
Surely there are other reasons for this, but we’ve done away with one of the real teaching opportunities we have.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when results matter, and if we aren’t at our best, well, we lose.
That’s not necessarily on the scoreboard but in job interviews, in scholarship essays, in final exams and even how we choose to raise the next generation.
Performance matters. And just showing up isn’t good enough after awhile.
Juxtapose all this with those leagues and teams with overzealous parent coaches who only focus on winning instead of teaching — yet another aggravation of mine — and it may seem that I’m coming off slightly hypocritical.
But surely the sweet spot of all this lies somewhere in the middle.
It’s important not only that our children understand basic skills and how to treat each other, but it’s also essential that they experience winning with humility and losing with grace.
Most importantly though, especially as it translates into real life, is learning that the pursuit of excellence and being exceptional isn’t something for which we need to apologize.
This is one of the hardest things to teach. I just hope I’m getting it right.

Published: March 12, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180309954