Like many of you, I spend a lot of time supporting my children and their sports endeavors. I do this happily, as I believe strongly in the value of kids playing team sports. I believe in learning the importance of teamwork, working at a skill to develop proficiency, and enduring challenging situations. I also believe in getting plenty of time running around outside.
I’m a soccer mom. I never would have predicted how much I enjoy watching my boys play soccer. I never thought I’d open our home to a young man from Brazil and a young woman from England in support of my kids’ interest in soccer. I certainly never thought I’d spend so much time in the car, driving hither and yon to practices and games, all in the name of sport.
But I do. And I do it willingly. I do it without thought to any payback. I don’t say that in an attempt to be a mama martyr; rather, I say it because I want my kids to know that sometimes you do things because they are fun. And sometimes you do things because they support people you love. You should never believe that you’re going to get anything other than the joy of playing or watching the game.
There was a recent NPR story about the likelihood of a child becoming a pro athlete and how many parents have a skewed belief that there is some payoff in their child’s future. Maybe if we just practice a little more, invest in better coaching, or devote more time and attention, that scholarship is just around the corner. Or, even better, you’ll turn pro and the big league bonus will make you set for life.
But probably not.
And by narrowing the focus of sport on the infinitesimal chance that there may be money in it, we adults do a whole lot of damage. Not only do we suck the fun out of sports, but we put way too much pressure on our children to take every moment seriously. While I certainly advocate developing a strong work ethic and honoring the commitment to the team by doing their best, it is our responsibility (and privilege) to allow these children to develop a sense of satisfaction just from playing the game.
Sure, I’d love for one of my kids to earn an athletic scholarship. But I would hope that by the time that opportunity presents itself, my son is still in love with the game. By allowing him to play at a competitive level but keeping a recreational focus, I hope that I’m fostering this passion without putting pressure on him to make it pay off.
And if I’m ruining my boys’ futures by not putting them on the athletic fast track, I’m okay with that, too. For now, I have children who love to play the game, and I love to watch them. That’s a balance we all appreciate.
Good health and great happiness to you.