Your Son's Getting Cheated

You don’t have to look far today to find the sports parent who is convinced his son's getting cheated.  It’s the harsh reality for youth sports parents – way too many of us spend way too much time playing the victim.  Some parents just handle it better than others. For some, the fight stays inside. We bite our lip and control our behavior, but the radar in our brain is constantly searching to identify some unfairness – from the coach, from the umpire, from his teammates or opponents, or from the game itself.

For others, the fight spills outward. You can’t contain yourself any longer – you have to act. That’s when you become the guy who yells out…or storms out…or gets so mad, he thinks maybe he’s gonna pass out, right there at your son’s game.

Too many athletes and too many of their parents are unprepared for adversity – they don’t expect that it’s coming and often feel offended when it does. The truth, in fact, is that adversity is part of the story for every athlete. What part in the story adversity plays will be up to him. Eric Greitens is a former Navy Seal who wrote a great book, Resilience. In it, he makes an important distinction between a champion’s mindset and everyone else. Which one best describes you?  

“Hardship is unavoidable. Resilient people recognize this reality. Then they prepare

themselves for it, seeking to meet it as best they can, on their own terms...

The naive mind imagines effortless success. The cowardly mind imagines hardship

and freezes. The resilient mind imagines hardship and prepares.”

                                                                                                 -Resilience by Eric Greitens

Today I’m challenging you to accept the fact that adversity will be a part of your son’s story. If you’re serious about raising a champion athlete and man, it’s time to put away some naive picture of effortless success. It’s time to stop blaming people you’ve determined are responsible for your son’s misfortune. It’s time to shelf the victim mentality. 

Instead, it’s time to focus on helping your son become his very best. Champion parents believe they can use whatever experiences occur in the life of their boy today to help move him closer to his full potential, including – and maybe especially – experiences involving hardship or adversity. They've come to accept some realities of life for a champion athlete and man, truths they’re determined to help their son come to accept, too:

*Sports, like life, aren’t always fair. What we think we deserve or are entitled to is not always what we get.

*Life will be filled with events and decisions that exist beyond our control. How we  respond to those events       and decisions is actually what matters most. The preacher  and author Charles Swindoll said it best: “Life is      10% what happens to me and 90% how  I react to it.”

*Just because circumstances are hard doesn’t mean we have to fall to pieces.  Success  can still be found in the       face of our challenges, and we can still treat people well even in  the midst of our struggle. 

If you’re a champion parent, you understand that only through adversity can these important lessons be taught.  That doesn’t mean that you’re excited for him to struggle – you love him.  But if you’ve accepted that adversity is a part of his story, then you’re excited about what this struggle can teach him.  You’ve decided that loving him means preparing him for the realities of a successful life more than it means knitting for him some security blanket of naivety, safety, and protection.  You see that the safety blanket may make both of you feel better today, but that’s not all you see.  In the big picture, you also see how a victim mentality cripples him for tomorrow. 

As a champion parent, you've decided that loving your son means

preparing him for the realities of a successful life more than it means

knitting for him some security blanket of naivety, safety, and protection.

The victim sports parent, on the other hand, doesn’t see how his actions today will impact the man his son is becoming. This dad is gonna stand up and defend his boy, shelter and protect him from the unfairness of his circumstances, or – at the very least – find someone to blame for it. Why? Because he loves him. Unlike the champion parent, though, this guy shows his love by knitting that blanket and cushioning the fall. Intentionally or not, he’s decided that feeling good today is more important than preparing his boy for the realities of life. He can’t see the big picture. “Tomorrow?” the weak-minded sports parent naively thinks, “Who cares about tomorrow? My boy feels safe, and protected, and happy today.”

Unfortunately, for the victim sports parent, tomorrow will be here soon. You’ve probably spent too much time feeling anxious, angry, or victimized and too little time focused on helping your son improve. In time, your son will follow suit. He’ll fall down plenty in life - like we all do - but your boy won’t be able to pick himself up. Instead of getting better, he’ll get bitter. He’ll feel safe, and protected, and maybe even convince himself he’s happy there in his blanket. But he won’t be a champion.

If this is you, then you’re making it harder - not easier - for your son to reach his full potential, on the athletic field and someday in life. He won’t become his best, and you’re part of the reason why. Now, does your son need to experience every hardship in life? No, probably not. But if he doesn’t experience any hardship, ever? If he's always the victim?  Then you’re helping to shape his understanding of the “truth:” that he deserves to get everything he thinks he’s entitled to, that events and decisions existing outside his control are more important than his response to them, and that challenging circumstances give him the right to fall to pieces.

Are you convinced that your son’s been cheated? If so, then I’ll agree with you. He has been cheated…by you! There’s a champion in your boy that needs built up, strengthened, and developed. Instead, you’re weakening and crippling him. Don’t spend your sports parent experience playing the role of the victim. Instead, see the opportunity that exists today to model for your son what a champion looks like, and help him become a champion himself in the process.


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