Sports Love & family

Learning Life's Lessons through Sports


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The Dilemma of the Multi-Sport Athlete…

If your child is nearing high school age, and is a multi-sport athlete, chances are you’ve had conversations about them specializing or choosing one sport over another. You’ve probably had these conversations with each other, with your child and with coaches. With so much emphasis on winning, the pressure for coaches to have high performing teams is insurmountable. Some high school coaches are putting pressure on players to dedicate time to only their sport, instead of spreading time between other sports. When faced with this situation, there’s a few things to consider.
First, consider the source. Are you having these conversations with coaches? Let’s remember many coaches motivation is self-serving (remember myself and husband coach and it’s not every coach). Most coaches are not looking out for your child, they are looking out for their team or even themselves. Take what the coach says with a grain of salt and know there’s another coach waiting in the wings to discuss their intentions for your child, and most likely it’s the opposite of what you just heard.
Another source to consider is friends of your child. I bet you’re discussing this with them as well. While other parents are great sounding boards, friends of your child’s or teammates are probably not the best ones to discuss this decision. Again, part of their intention is self-serving. They want the best for their child first. While I know they care about your kid, that comes second to their flesh and blood. Any decision you make could have an impact on their child and therefore they may not be helping.
Now, I’m not saying to cease conversations with coaches and friends of the family, but I am telling you to take their opinions at face value. I don’t preach advice often, but take my advice here, listen and discuss with these people, but in the end don’t do what they want.
And lastly, the absolute most important thing to consider, is your child. Your child’s emotional well-being, your child’s development. How will this decision affect them, in the short-term and long-term? Have very real and truthful conversations with your kid. To many people this decision seems inconsequential. And maybe in the big-picture of life it is. But, for the next four years of your child’s life this decision is immense!
To your child, the weight of this decision could mean the difference of a college choice, could mean the difference of being a collegiate athlete, could mean the difference of giving up activities they’ve done from the time they were a tiny tot. This decision could change their identity or who they think they are or are going to be. This decision can change the course of how they thought things in high school were going to play out. So, yes, to an outsider looking in, it appears this decision is small in scale. But, to your child, it is EVERYTHING right now.
When faced with the decision to commit to one sport or to continue being a multi-sport athlete take all things into consideration. Think about the focus and time and money that will be poured into one sport or multiple, if that’s the decision. Think about how to balance it all, or just how to balance the one and school. Think about what the next four years looks like and the end goal. But, most of all, think about how this decision will impact the one you love the most, the athlete, your child.


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Creating a Culture

Dear Coach,

I love [insert your sport here]. I work hard and I try my best. At every practice I do everything I can to show you I deserve to be here. I work to impress you and my family. My parents believe in me. I believe in me.
I seem to have all I need, right? Well, I’m missing one thing. I’m missing your unconditional support. I know that you’re there to push me. I know that you believe in my abilities. What I don’t get from you is support “no matter what.”
If I’m hurt or not feeling my best, I’m afraid to tell you. I’m afraid of how you’ll treat me or how you’ll look at me like your disappointed. I’m sacrificing my body and my ability so I don’t have to confront you.
Sincerely,
Your player
————–
Does this situation sound familiar to you? Do you know an athlete whom struggles with an injury or a poor performance or two and wants nothing to do with talking to the coach? Unfortunately, this is all too familiar in our uber-competitive society. It’s the “whatever it takes to win” attitude. Take it from me, I’m as competitive as the next person, but when the athlete begins to sacrifice their mental and physical being for the game, we have a very serious problem. And fortunately, this problem can be resolved and even avoided. You may not like what I’m about to say, but, it begins with you, the Coach.
Yep, I said it. You can be the winningest coach, the smartest coach, the most motivating coach, but you also can be a culture crushing coach. What do I mean by that? One asset that many coaches do not have is learning and understanding their players. We expect this of our children’s teachers on a daily basis. We want the teachers to understand our children and tailor their lesson plans for each of them. Why do we expect it of teachers, but not of coaches?
As a coach, it is your responsibility to learn your players, to understand what motivates each of them. Players, just like students, are motivated differently. It is part of your duty to learn how to get the best out of each them. As well as, knowing when something isn’t right, like an injury. If you have an acute knowledge of your players, then you should be able to recognize when they are not 100%. Recognizing it is one thing, how you handle it, is another.

A player should never be afraid to tell their coach about an injury. Players are silenced because of the fear of being benched. Having an injury shouldn’t mean punishment. Show your player you care. Show them you are concerned more with their wellbeing than with winning the game. A little compassion at the beginning could save a lot of heartache in the end.


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Don’t Compromise Your Why

I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek’s Start with Why. It’s a book that was introduced to me in my professional life. And, recently I read this blog post about coaches balancing their Why and it really struck a cord a with me.

Start with Why is about your purpose, why do you exist, why do you do what you do? In business, the answer isn’t to make a profit, that’s a result. Sinek says “that people buy why you do something, not what you do.” In this video he uses Apple as an example. In short, we all have a reason for being and coaches have a reason for coaching, like in the blog I linked above.

Every coach has a Why, a reason they sacrifice so much, day in and day out. The example used in the blog is that a few families demanded that the coach do away with the equal playing time rule. This strikes a cord with me because all of the organizations my kids play for, have this rule, and we’ve encountered these same parents before. The coach (in the blog post) almost felt obligated to submit to those families out of fear of losing them to another club, in turn, compromising his Why. This coach wanted to try and “balance” his/her system to appease a few families. I absolutely love the response his friend gave him, “You do not balance anything. If you cater to those few who only want to win, it isn’t a balance. It is abandoning your principles. Instead, you get really clear on who you are and what you do….” 

If your organization or coach doesn’t have a parent meeting before the start of the season, they should. A parent meeting is a great way for the organization or coach to lay out their Why, their mission. It’s not going to remedy every situation, but at least the Why is upfront for all to see. If they don’t agree with your Why, they should probably find a different organization. “Never compromise the many for the few.”

I can sit here all day and pull out great quotes from the blog post, but I won’t. I encourage you to read it in its entirety, especially if you are a coach.


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Learn to Succeed from Failure

Legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano was quoted as saying,” Never give up! Failure and rejection are only the first step to succeeding.”

Even with these important words of wisdom from the late, great, coach, failure can still cause so much pain for young athletes and their parents.

It’s inevitably going to happen. At some point in your child’s life they will experience failure. There will come a time when your child will fail at what they are trying to achieve. They will miss a game winning shot in a basketball game, will give up the game winning hit or give up a goal. By every definition of the word, they will fail at something at some point in their life. In the end, that’s OK.

The first step to overcoming failure is to erase that word from your vocabulary. Failure can be a very destructive word that is used to describe events when goals are not achieved. I believe that we should be teaching our athletes that there is no such thing as failure. Failure is just an opportunity to learn and get better. If you get rid of the idea of failure in your mind you are then able to get rid of the fear of it.

Getting hung up on the failure, the fear of failure or focusing on the wins and losses can distract the athlete from learning. Failure can be one of your child’s greatest teachers. We learn best by making mistakes or experiencing disappointments and then growing from them. Defeat and disappointments are an integral part of sports and life.

After experiencing a disappointment in sports or life, athletes can do one of two things. They can either feel bad about themselves and the outcome of the event or they can learn from it and come back stronger and better equipped for sports and life from it. Resilience is paramount to building confidence. Athletes must be able to learn from the past but focus on the present.

Trying to protect your child from experiencing failure, like discouraging them from trying out for a team or trying a new activity, or not letting them handle their own situations, takes away valuable life skills and learning opportunities. Children who are over-protected from failure often do not obtain the skills necessary to deal with it. This is the great thing about sports, so many of the skills needed in life can be learned through your child’s participation.

An important thing for parents to remember is that long-term success is always more important than short-term results. Failure gives your child important feedback and it is not something to be feared or fended off.

So even if your child misses a game winning shot in a basketball game, gives up the game winning hit or gives up a goal, your child will become a more equipped person and athlete by learning from what happened and knowing how to handle similar situations next time.

4 THINGS TO HELP YOUR CHILD LEARN FROM FAILURE:

1. Acknowledge and allow your child to express their feelings after the event.

2. After emotions subside help your child work through what occurred, focus on the positives and what can be learned from it.

3. During the days following remind them of their proven strengths and abilities.

4. Help them bounce back by reminding them that they always do.

 


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Knowing Your Role: The Player

“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. “ – Vince Lombardi

I was a player before I was a coach or a parent. But, it was a long time ago; today I’m a co-worker and those values I learned long ago, serve me today. Now as a parent, I must remember what that was like, so I can share those experiences with my kids. Last time we talked about what it means to be a coach, to guide your players, to teach them the sport. Well, as the player your most important task is to be a good learner. This means showing up ready to work. This means being present and ready to learn. It means trying your best 100% of the time.

Once you join a team, there is no more I or me. As a player your child’s responsibility is to themselves, their coach and their team. If they have leadership tendencies, encourage them to step up and be that person for their teammates. Be there to pick them up, be there to encourage them. Be a doer, but also a shower (that’s almost more important). Show them that you always hustle, show them that you always give 100%, show them that when you struggle you are able to move on from it. If your child is not comfortable being a leader, encourage them be a team player, because that’s important, and it’s important to know how you can best contribute to the team.

A team player is someone that shows up to do their job. At practice their job is to listen to instruction, be respectful to the coach and teammates and try their best. At a game their job is to do all of the above but most importantly support each and everyone on the team. Cheer on your teammates. Give high fives or fist bumps, a pat on the back or a “good job” or “you’ll get it next time”. As a player they need to learn the game and try their best, as a team player they need to be the biggest supporter of each of their teammates.

Let your children know they don’t need to be best friends with their teammates, in fact they don’t even need to be friends. When you walk on that playing surface you’re teammates, no matter what else is happening around you. And if you’re all friends and want to spend time together afterwards, that’s just icing on the cake. This is the time when they’ll create memories that last forever. Enjoy it, live in this moment, because it really does go so fast.

One thing you will take away from being a teammate, is learning how to work with all different kinds of people and it will serve you your entire life. Remind your child that their individual commitment to the team is what makes the team work, and later, the company and society work. And that means we’re learning life’s lessons through sports!


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Knowing Your Role

Introducing the first in this four-part series about ‘Knowing Your Role’. To us this means knowing what you bring to your team and realizing that each role on the team is important. Join us as we discuss what roles we have, and then as we dive into the various roles on a team (Coach, Player and Parent).

Part I: Knowing Your Role
As adults we have careers, and within that career we have specific assignments or expectations of us. One thing that prepared us for this was playing sports growing up. It’s important to know your role on a team. We know that not everyone can be the coach, or the captain or the number one pitcher. We each have a specific role and each role is important (please remember to tell this to your children constantly).

As parents, we need to educate our children on this. Our kids learn this lesson in school daily, some may realize it and others probably don’t. This is another reason why sports play such a pivotal role in the development of a child. This is how I think we can control the sense of “entitlement-age” we’re living in.

We explain to our children that your team is like working for a company. You have the boss, which is your coach. You have other supervisors, which are the assistant coaches. You have the worker-bees, which are the players. Within that set you all have specialties, or in a company they might be departments. Everyone has a job description, everyone has a position they play. We tell our kids they are only 1/9th (baseball/softball) or 1/5th (basketball) of their team; because you can only control YOUR ACTIONS. However, if someone needs help performing their duties, typically others pick up the slack, because we are ONE team.

The greater good of the company is defined by how well each person performs their role. The success of the team is defined the same way. But, success can only be achieved when the right people are put in the right roles to obtain the best outcome. You can’t put someone at first base whom can’t catch the ball, it’s setting them up to fail. If each of us understand our role and accept it and know that our role is important to the greater good, success should follow.

The difficult part is not knowing your role, it’s understanding it’s importance to the team. When kids are little they hate playing outfield because at a young age they don’t receive much action. It’s our job to make sure they realize that there’s more to that role than catching a fly ball. On every pitch, every player should be moving and they should know where they’ll ultimately end up should that pitch be hit. At the youth level outfielders backing up infielders is critical on each play. I’ve seen many bases and runs given up because there wasn’t someone backing up a throw.

Explaining early on to our children that not everyone can be a pitcher or a point guard, will help them understand the importance of each role on a TEAM. Not everyone is going to be able to, nor want to be the CEO of a company, or the Vice President of a department. As long as we’re teaching our kids to be team players and that their own success can contribute to the greater good of the team or organization.


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Coach, You Missed a Teachable Moment

Dear 8U Baseball Coach (opponent coach, not ours),

Do you feel like you’re teaching your boys the game of baseball? Do you think that running your kids around the bases when the ball was in the infield taught any of the kids on the field anything? How about tagging up on a pop-up to shortstop? Did it make you feel like the best coach out there to score an exorbitant amount of runs in three innings? Was it your best idea to tell your kid to leadoff when there is a no leadoff rule and then tell the umpire so we could end the inning? What are all these things teaching your players?

Your lack of baseball etiquette was evident that day. Your lack of ability to teach young players the proper technique was also evident. I’d love to be at a game in a few years to see if what you’ve taught your players still works. Did you think of the other children on the field? Clearly, you didn’t. Our boys handled it in stride, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

I’m writing this to you because you angered me. And the next day my older son was in a game in virtually the same situation, except we were on the winning side. Our coach held our runners and didn’t make a fool of the other team. We were winning 11-0 when one of our players hit a two-run homerun (over the fence). Of course our players wanted to congratulate him at home plate, however our coach told them to stay in the dugout. The opposing coach told our coach he appreciated that.

So, you see, there is etiquette in all sports and we need to teach our children the proper way. We need to teach our children that their actions (good or bad) have an affect on others. Not only for the sake of sports but for humanity. Whether you are up by 15 or down by 1, as a coach you must always be able to recognize a situation and adjust accordingly; that’s coaching and that’s how life’s lessons are conveyed to players.