Somewhere today a kid is stepping onto a playing field.
Her first soccer game in her speedy pink shoes, his first freshman at-bat. And that standout day will be punctuated in some cases not by how well your child played, but by how you led them to the field.
We have all seen the stories in the news, tragic in some cases, about parents who went too far. And yet, most of us consider those cautionary tales as extreme, and nothing like what actually happens at our kids’ games. I gotta tell you, though, some of the rest of you aren’t impressing us much either.
Do you remember what it felt like to be eight years old, standing on that mound?
On that field?
Were you standing there wondering what flavor slush you would get after the game, or were you sick with worry about what your Dad would say about the grounder you fumbled? Or if he’d start trouble with that guy in the stands. Again.
It’s been awhile, I know.
Maybe 20 years?
You didn’t get picked, you struck out.
One second, one lapse in concentration and that ball went sailing by, much like your youth. I hope for the sake of the relationship you have with your child that you finally realize this cold hard fact. It is no longer your turn to play.
I’ve heard some of your pathetic arguments. Competition builds inner strength and commitment. Scholarships aren’t given to the weak and carefree. Talent is wasted without focus. I have news for you. If you put that kid on that field, he will learn with your help, or without it. And he will love you for your guidance and encouragement, or hate you for being the embarrassment at the game instead of the father who should have been.
Sports didn’t get hyper-competitive, my friend, you did. You invented the two-a-day, the club team, and the smack-talk. Sports turned into stepping stones for higher education, revenue generators for schools, proving grounds for respect and adoration, and the place where parent-child relationships went on the disabled list.
Reign it in.
Pull it back.
I know this is tough to accept, but this isn’t your turn at bat, it’s his. If he hits that ball it won’t make up for the one you missed. The only thing you can do to help that kid now is to develop his sportsmanship, and pure love of the game.
The good news is that after all these years, you will get to play this time. And you can play really well, or you can really strike out. The only way the “w” in the win column will be yours today, however, is if your child feels your pride and encouragement no matter what happens at the plate.
Your kid and I are hoping you’ll just do your best, and have fun.
Jay Lessons is a novice ‘burb daddy, a husband-in-training, and a sarcastic elitist. You can find more of his reflective rants at HalftimeLessons.com.