Updated: Aug 25, 2021
I can still hear the shouting from the dad behind me on the bleachers, “get back on defense!”, “shoot it!”, “Come on son, what are you doing!”, “that’s a terrible call ref!”. I could sense the frustration from the boys face as he struggled to keep up with both the coach and his dad. A fourth grader trying to decide who to listen to, the instructions coming from coach on the bench, or dad in the bleachers. This is such an overwhelming experience for any youth athlete.
People are competitive by nature. We spend our lives competing with our peers. I still remember following all of Mrs. Torres' instructions in Kindergarten in order to become the line leader for the day. When I was in middle school, having the most rare Pokemon Cards made you the best. Like every other kid in my school, I had to have it so that I can be known for having the most exclusive cards of anyone at Bridgeham Middle SchooI. Making Varsity was the main goal for anyone interested in Basketball in High School. I became the captain and starter of the varsity team for Central High School my Junior year. Today is no different. The goal now is to become the best Basketball Training Program in Rhode Island and eventually in the country. Those results are still pending, but I hear we are doing good these days lol
We as people are competitive by nature. It's what gives us drive, hope, a vision, and a feeling of living life to our fullest. Competition is good. It brings the best out of us. But sometimes it may hurt us, or those we love. Finding balance is important and for most that is a struggle, but the good news is that it's alright to make mistakes. There is no guide book to life so the only way we can learn is through trial and error. Today we can change. We can finally give our children the opportunities to learn through their own mistakes. To make their own turnovers, bad passes, bad shot sections, be afraid, and even struggle to learn the game. Failure is our best teacher and it can be for our children too if we allow it.
It is difficult to witness your child struggle, not succeed and even get cut from the team that all their friends made. Trust me I know I am a father to a 9 year old boy and a 5 year old girl. It hurts! But it's important for them that we as parents give them the opportunity to feel pain, struggle, adversity, and failure at a controlled level such as the ones we experience in sports so that they can be prepared for the real world and the challenges that come with it.
It’s important for our children to have fun. In order for your son or daughter to fall in love with the game they need time and space to learn to appreciate and enjoy the game. Sports are new to us all at some point in our lives, and we all deserve the opportunity to experiment the game for ourselves. Can you envision being micro managed while trying to enjoy your favorite hobby? Imagine your kids shouting instructions at you the entire time you are painting a portrait, “No not that color!”, “Really? Blue!", "Come on you‘re better than that mom/ dad!".
It may be difficult, I'm guilty of it too with my son Ayden at times, but we have to put ourselves in their shoes and see them as we would want to be seen, as an individual with their own mind and feelings.
It’s normal to want more for our children. They are our pride and joy. I was there when each of my children were born. I can still remember the first car ride home from the hospital with my oldest son Ayden. We drove so slow that we were lucky a police officer didn't pull us over. Every bump on the road was like driving up a mounting for me and my wife Natalie. We spoon fed them. We held them as they took their first steps so they wouldn't get hurt. I'll always remember those days at the park when both my kids were coming down that slide, I literally contemplated bringing a pillow and placing it at the end as a safety landing prop. I get it, I really do! But we have to let them learn and the best way to do this is through sports where we learn by controlled failure the same way we learn a new play, or when we compete in a scrimmage with a much faster, or stronger player. That is life! A world with faster, smarter, and even stronger people, but there is a place for us all. We need to find out what that is. How can we do this? It's simple, experiencing things for ourselves.
Give your child assignments every game. The last thing we want is to overwhelm our children, but we can give them goals that are attainable. Challenge them each game with assignments such as hustling back, getting to the open spot on the court, driving to the basket, finding the open teammate, etc. Doing so may alleviate some pressure on their performance and ultimately build healthy feelings towards the game.
It is important to avoid assignments that are more challenging such as scoring 10 points and getting 3 steals in one game. The idea is to build their confidence with more attainable tasks especially for younger players. Adjust the difficulty as their confidence grows and they gain more knowledge of the game.
Raising the standards may be healthy, but in sports, if they are too challenging, it may hurt a child's development due to pressure of pleasing the coach, teammates, friends and even us, the parents.
Bringing up poor game performances on the ride home must be avoided. Keep in mind that these games at the youth level will fade away and no one will ever remember them. The only thing our children will remember is our support and how much fun they had. The game is new to them and it takes time to learn it. “Did you have fun?” Are my go to words after games. No one likes to be judged or ridiculed over their performance in anything and this goes for our children too. Positive reinforcement will build your bond with your child and their confidence on and off the court.
Final thoughts. Love them for who they are. Not everyone will become an NBA star, but a lot of us will learn from the game we love most. We will meet new people and learn life lessons. Some of the skills that have put me in the position that I find myself in today came from the game of Basketball. Skills such as, hard work, discipline, competing, communication, dealing with adversity, never giving up, and passion. Basketball is a teacher of life. Don't take the opportunity for granted!