Lessons from Youth Sports

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Can we all agree that youth sports might be a tiny bit out of control at times? Y’all, I hate to burst your bubble, but for about 95% of our kids, their ability to sink a jump shot is going to matter a lot less than their character in twenty years.

This weekend the second grade cheer squad I coached cheered at their final basketball game. Second grade girls cheering for second grade boys. Kids who are impressionable and learning life lessons much bigger than a free throw.

My girls cheered diligently for the first 20-minute half, showing off chants they’ve worked hard to master. Then it was their turn to shine. At half time, they took to center court to perform a 2-minute dance. A dance that they put their hearts into and practiced for weeks. But less than halfway into their dance, the female coach of one of the boys’ teams had her kids go onto the court and begin dribbling and shooting. It was distracting. It was rude. It was incredibly disrespectful. And it was not only allowed by an adult, but led by one.

With this single decision, this coach taught those boys that they mattered more than cheerleaders. That boys can ignore and disrespect a girl in a skirt. That their wants matter more than anyone else’s. Instead of showing them how to respect and applaud gifts that differ from their own, she showed them how to belittle the contributions of others.

So fellow parents, as we continue to spend our Saturdays in gyms and on fields, let’s remind ourselves of the skills that matter long-term. Of course we’ll cheer when they get a great hit, score a goal, play amazing defense. But let’s also notice their character achievements. Let’s tell them that we noticed how they helped a player off the ground. That we appreciated the way they supported their teammates. That we were proud of how they greeted the opposing team after the game. Let’s commend their kindness and sportsmanship as much as we do their athletic prowess. After all, I’m pretty sure that most of them are going to be making a living (and a life) based on their character, not their lay-up.

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