I overheard a couple parents chatting on the sideline of a soccer game the other day. One of the parents was lamenting a situation for her older daughter who is “stuck” playing volleyball for what the mom felt was a “waste of a season.”
“She’s one of the oldest and the other girls are just so bad,” she explained. “She isn’t going to get anything out of it, it’s a total waste.”
I didn’t interject for fear I would give away the truth that I am a notorious eaves-dropper. What I wanted to tell her is that there is no such thing as a “waste of a season” just athletes and families who let opportunities go to waste.
I wanted to look her in the eye and challenge her to consider that she has the capacity to guide her daughter to make any season memorable, educational, developmental, and enjoyable. I also wanted to tell her that what her daughter gets out of this season, any season, will come down to how well she is armed to navigate the tough stuff. The mom has obviously chosen bitterness, frustration, and disappointment to frame the season into a wasted one, and if her daughter catches wind, it will become just that.
I get so frustrated that too many modern sports parent have lost the character their kids need as guidance and then wonder why the kids struggle to handle frustration, disappointment, and challenging circumstances.
I see it all sorts of places. I see it with the hockey parents for my daughter’s team who are hellbent on manipulating an environment instead of improving upon some of the good things already happening. I hear it in some of the soccer parent conversations in our community because it gets challenging to field the teams they imagine in their heads. Brooding with disappointment due to unmet expectations is the deathnell for a good outlook.
You want to know the antidote to all of this griping, complaining, and frustration?
The antidote is gratitude.
Choosing to find gratitude for every single opportunity, for every single experience is much harder than frustration when we don’t have control, or our expectations are disappointed. It takes effort to find gratitude, but with practice it is the framing of life’s experiences that will help our kids the most.
If my daughter were this woman’s daughter I would know I had my work cut out for me to parent her well, but I would never consider, or ever comment, that it’s a waste of her time. Actually, I have navigated some version of this conversation with each of our three kids at some point. I helped work with them to find the lessons they could be learning, the growth they could make, and then we talked about the things for which they could be grateful.
I asked them:
Are you grateful you can play?
Are you grateful you have a team?
Who can you help? Who can you encourage?
Are you grateful you have an opportunity to be a positive presence for the group?
Not all learning in sports happens for technique and skill level every season. Some seasons will teach leadership while others teach humility. Some will challenge and some will build confidence. Some will be more difficult than others and we need to stop trying to avoid the difficult. We need to start teaching the tools to navigate. Gratitude is one of the best tools we can foster in our kids.
If kids don’t know yet the value in all of the lessons they have an opportunity to learn, it is up to Team Adult to teach them, otherwise we are all wasting our time.
Copyright 2019 Meagan Frank