You Care...but About What?
When it comes to being a sports parent, it’s obvious you care. Just look at the investment you’ve made. You’ve devoted a lot of your time, your money, and your energy to supporting your son. I’m guessing, if you stop to look through your schedule or calendar, it’d be obvious there, too. Even reading this newsletter right now is evidence that you care.
See, there’s plenty of proof that you care. But the question I’d like you to consider today is this: what do you really care about? You’re here, doing all the stuff that a parent in today’s youth sports culture is responsible for doing…but why? What are you hoping to get from your investment? There’s plenty of proof that you care…but about what?
There are all kinds of things you might choose to care about as a sports parent. In reality, some are important, but many are not. In fact, a sure-fire way to guarantee you won’t get the full return on your investment is to care too much about things that don't actually matter very much, and to care too little about things that are actually very important. That’s the reality of prioritizing any area of life - every time you elevate the importance of one thing, you’re relegating something else. So if you’re hoping to raise a champion athlete and man, then it’s worth stopping to consider. Do you care about what’s really important?
Choosing to make raising a champion your top priority means committing to a process that can only be accomplished over time, to using the opportunities you have to teach, build, and develop your son each day. The champion athlete has much more than just elite athletic skill. He’s developed something more: mental skills and abilities that separate him from the rest. These are the talents we discuss regularly here in the newsletter; talents that can, should, and must be developed intentionally by a champion parent; talents whose value and development, unfortunately, are hidden from most sports parents today. Those talents include:
*Loving the Game
*Giving His Best
*Being a Teammate
*Having a Positive Attitude
These are the skills and abilities possessed by the champion athlete. They are also skills and abilities that carry over into your son’s life beyond sports, those an athlete will eventually take with him into adulthood – as a husband, a father, an employee, and a friend. These are the talents possessed by a champion man, too.
If that’s your goal – to develop and cultivate the talents of a champion in your son – then what you should care about most is using what he experiences today to help him improve in these areas for tomorrow. As is always the case, what you choose to emphasize is what your son will learn to value. So how do you emphasize it? First and foremost, by prioritizing it.
What you choose to emphasize is what your son will learn to value.
Here’s a great example. When the game or practice ends, if you’re like most parents, you spend some time talking about the experience on the car ride home. So what is it you choose to prioritize when it comes to dissecting your son’s day on the playing field? If you’ve said what you care about most today is developing the qualities of a champion – let’s say, his best effort, or his toughness, or his courage, or his selflessness – any quality you might choose from that list, then evaluating those should be a priority, right? So how often does he hear you making those things important?
When he got in the car, you congratulated him on the win or consoled him over the loss. Then you started in with a breakdown of every at-bat, or every shot attempt, or every scoring chance of his individual performance. Then you bad-mouthed the referees, talked about some of his teammates' performances, and questioned a few of the coach’s decisions. By the time you were done with all that, you were home and the ride was over.
So based on what you chose to prioritize in your conversation after the game, how much do you really care about his effort, or toughness, or courage, or selflessness? If you’ve chosen to make the qualities of a champion some secondary, nonessential part of the conversation – or not part of the conversation at all – then what have you helped your son understand about what you value?
You've said you value the winning or losing. You value the number of hits, or points, or shots. You value the opportunity to judge the referees and his teammates and his coach. You value all those things more, apparently, than the opportunity you have to help build him into a champion. When will that conversation happen? Later? Never? If so, then how important, really, is developing your son’s effort, or toughness, or courage, or selflessness in your eyes? And, in turn, how important will developing them become to your son? Not prioritizing those things is proof that maybe you aren't seeing what really matters.
On the other hand, what message does it send to your son if your conversation after the game is centered around the talents of a champion. What if those were right in the forefront of your post-game breakdown?
“I could tell you were tired, but that didn’t stop you from giving your best out there. That’s what it’s all about, no matter the circumstances.
I love seeing you give everything you’ve got!”
“You got knocked down, but you kept getting back up.
Last year you might have quit, but not now. Your toughness is growing, I can see it!”
“It seemed like you were nervous, but I love that you were courageous enough to go for it anyways.
A lot of guys wouldn’t even have tried. That’s so important!”
“I always appreciate that you're such a great teammate.
You probably gave more high-fives today than anyone out there. Keep it up!”
What you care about most is making sure your son knows that these are the areas where you’re paying attention. Sure, the scoreboard matters. And yes, his athletic performance matters, too. (Depending on his age, those things might matter a lot.) But conversation-starters like these help your son see what you’ve chosen to prioritize. The more you pay attention to them, the more you encourage your son to grow in these areas, and the more you hold him accountable when he doesn’t meet the standard you think he’s capable of – in short, the more you emphasize that these are the things you really value? Then the more he will learn to value them, too.
The same can be said for the conversations your son hears you having with others about who he is on the playing field or beyond. When someone asks you how his game went or what kind of season it’s been, what does your response reveal that you really care about? Have you considered the impact it might have on your son if he heard you say to someone else, “He made some nice shots, but you should have seen this kid’s toughness. I’m so proud of him!” Or maybe, “Yeah, I love how hard he can hit it, but I love even more how hard he plays.” You might be surprised how empowering that can be to your son, and how highlighting to others the talents he possesses can help to fuel his growth in those areas even more.
In the end, it’s pretty simple. What you choose to emphasize is what your son will learn to value. If you’re serious about raising a champion athlete and man, then it’s time to start making that the priority in his experiences. You’ve made a huge investment in his life as an athlete, and it’s obvious you care…just make you know about what.
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