Your child’s perception of your relationship to sports is currently shaping their decisions and costing them happiness and health.
Your child’s perception of your love for sports has a lot to do with their relationship to sports (which is a very bad thing and I will tell you why). The weight that sports carries in his or her life is shaped by four things that you do.
Most of us are not really good at gauging what our perceived relationship with sports is. That is why what I am about to share with you is mission critical.
A Dad's Dilemma
Recently a dad emailed me about his two daughters who are swimmers and are swimming for a very high-level, high-dedication club team. The 10 year old is naturally gifted and inclined to give the sport her very best effort- she is motivated and driven, “wired” for swimming if you will. The 13 year old is not- she does not give her best effort and is not naturally as gifted.
This dad asked the following question:
“How (wrong question) do I get my 13 year old to work harder? How do I grade her accountability and dedication so that she knows I am not going to waste all this money and time for her to swim at this high level?”
Wrong question. The right question -- WHY?
Why is she not wanting to give her best?
You and I know that we all give our best to the things we want to give our best to. And we want to give our best to things that we truly, deep down, want to and are inclined to give our all to.
She does not WANT TO and maybe is not wired for high-level club swim!
It is obvious that the 13 year old perceived her father’s love for swimming to be very high. Therefore, consciously or subconsciously she thought, “If I do not participate in the high-level club, my dad won’t love me as much. He values club level more. I want to make him proud. Plus, my little sister is doing it. I don’t want him to like her MORE than me.”
Rough! I know. I do not make the rules up, I just observe them.
How do we know what our perceived love of sports is in the eyes of our children?
- What we spend our time on
Since time is our most precious resource, the only thing we cannot get more of, it is natural for all of us to recognize someone’s love for something by how much time they spend on it. Specifically, our quality time; free time, time on the weekends, time in the evenings, etc.
- What we spend our money on
Money is something most people hold onto tightly. What we are willing to spend it on freely, and in proportion to what we have, shows what we really love and value most.
- What we spend our time talking about
If the most frequent topic of discussion between you are your children is sports, you can bet they perceive that you love sports and their involvement with them more than anything else.
Just the thought of quitting or “down-leveling” will cause them anxiety. It will induce such a strong fear of disappointing you that it will cause them to perform poorly and it will paralyze them from making a decision that may be best for them.
- What we exert our emotional energy on
Do sports arouse some serious emotions in you?
Do your kids sense your angst before events or games?
Do they sense frustration in your tone of voice after they lose?
Do they sense more joy in your heart after they earned a win than they do from you after they earned a character counts award?
Do they see you get sad after their team loses?
Be careful, this is not just their game. They watch how you respond emotionally to the teams on TV too…
What do you make sacrifices for? The things you love.
Finally, we show what we love most by what we are willing to make sacrifices for. Most of us will move mountains to make it to our kids games and tournaments, to pay for their activities, etc.
That is all good. Just make sure they know that the REASON you are sacrificing work, church, and social gatherings has less to do with the sport and everything to do with your love for them-- for watching them play. (Keep in mind-- I do not recommend sacrificing your highest values for sports. There are long-term consequences to this.)
It may be time to stop reading and start assessing.
What is your starting point, parent? What about you, coach? We all know what matters most in life. And it is not sports. But is that what our kids perceive?
Do yourself, your family, and future generations a massive favor. Write down the following:
- What do I currently spend most of my free time on? What about quality time? Sports events, watching sports? Planning family experiences? Spiritual growth?
- What do I want to spend more time on? More quality time on?
- What am I willing to spend the most money on? And why?
- Do I need to communicate the why to my kids better so they know it is not love of sports, but rather love of their development and happiness?
- What do I talk about to my kids most? What do dinner table conversations and car rides need to focus more on in order for my kids to feel less pressure and perceive less love for sports from me?
- When I discuss sports with my kids, do I need to change how I talk about them? The emotional energy I exert?
One day at a time, one step at a time, we can show our kids and our players what matters most in life. We can show them what is worth loving and what is not.
I believe that this will change the world for the better. You are an incredible parent. A loving, passionate, selfless mom or dad. Keep getting better. Thanks for reading :-)
Serving you and your family,
P.S. Tanya, an amazing sports mom and myself, did a powerful interview yesterday on a lot of these topics. She shares how she transformed from “crazy sports mom” to “influential leader” for her two boys. Grab some entertainment :-), as well as some leadership and parenting gold by watching or listening to this→ Powerful Sports Mom Interview