Saturday, July 19, 2008

Is it worth it?

Is it worth it?

I have a friend whose son plays basketball with my son. Our boys are 12. She often says to me, "Is it worth it?" I'm assuming her question is rhetorical, but maybe she actually wants an answer while I'm just smiling at her.

I can't help but believe that it must be worth it to have my kids play sports. I've been watching them dance and play for 19 years. I can't just throw 19 years out the window. It is delightful to watch my children perform; however, there have been many heartaches over the years. As much as I want my kids to have everything go right for them there is inevitably going to be some agony along with the victory.

I tell myself I'm doing much better with my competitiveness and anxiety with the fifth (and last) kid, but I could very well be kidding myslef. My four oldest children are girls and I have learned that boys, in general, are different in some ways when it comes to sports. I have extremely competitive girls, but boys are so competitive with each other to the point that it gets kind of creepy sometimes. Also, I listen to what parents (not just the dads, but moms as well) say to their kids during games and I've noticed an overall difference between expectations of boys versus girls. Plus, there is palpable pressure sometimes for these young boys to play like professional athletes. At the same time, I'm amazed at their abilities and what they are able to do.

I have a bazillion stories about coaches, but it seems the most haunting stories are those that involve the Dr. Jekyl and Mr Hyde kind of coaches. They are the ones that are good, nice people until they put on their "coaching hat" and become crazy, venomous monsters. I'm talking about the kind of stuff that goes way, way beyond playing time issues (which are inherent in sports). This is the wicked stuff that destroys confidence and creates bad memories that last far too long. I wish they could hear themselves yelling and screaming and saying the nasty things they say. There's a part of me that has to believe they don't know what they are doing IN the moment. EIther that, or they think that the more intensely they crush a kid, he/she will work that much harder to fight back and get better. (Incidentally, that fake "psychology" rarely works and the benefits are short-lived.) There's a line these coaches cross with their behavior and their words punch and kick at kids' souls. I strongly disagree with a behavioral technique that is being used to supposedly motivate a kid while tearing them apart and stomping on them; especially, when there isn't any kind of teaching going on to help build the kid back up. (Note: Some coaches are nice off the field/court while others are just mean people. I don't find it as perplexing if they are just plain mean.)

Okay, so what do we do about playing time? It goes with the territory, doesn't it? I've heard upset parents talk about how their kid should be playing because their kid is so much better than so and so who gets to play all of the time, and the coach doesn't know what he's doing. While I'm listening to these parents I'm wondering if my opinion of my kid is a screwed up as their's is for their kid. I've also heard reasonable parents who will say something about how their kid may not be the best, but then say something about how they wish the coach would at least communicate to their child and let her know what to expect during a game. Some parents don't have a clue about sports (I've wondered if that is blissful), some are crazy and overbearing, and some are inbetween those who are absent and those who could be physically out on the court if at all possible.

What do you think about parents who try to coach their kid from the sidelines?

I think the bottom line is the same for most of us watching our kids in their activities. We love our kids and we want them to be happy and happiness seems to be equated with success, and success is often equated with winning, and winners are perceived as the ones who are playing all of the time. Therefore, consequently, and nevertheless, we want our kid to play all of the time. We want them to be happy.

So, is it worth it? Is it worth it to watch our hearts walk around outside of us when we watch our kids playing and performing? I'm assuming the question is rhetorical, so I'll just smile.

carry on

P.S. Kudos to those coaches in the world who care more about the kids than they do about trophies; who teach, teach, teach, and create positive energy rather than fear. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
(I will post my favorite article about coaching later since I don't have it at my fingertips.)

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