David set out to make the top team at the top baseball club in the region. It had been his dream since he was 8-years-old. Leading up to try outs, he trained relentlessly all summer, sacrificing pool parties for practices; and sleep overs for much needed rest. He gave everything his 14-year-old body had to give… all of which was admirable and applauded. Unfortunately, when the final cuts were made, he fell short of his goal. In the quiet car ride home, when the only interruption to the silence was his attempt to hold back tears, his mother stared ahead at the road speechless and heartbroken as well. As she gripped the steering wheel, she began to self-evaluate. Questions bombarded her mind. What is the coach not seeing? What next? What words do I break the silence with? Did I in the midst of supporting his goal and doing all I could to help him reach it, allow his goal to define him?
The thing about parenting athletes is, that sometimes one of the greatest roles we can play for our children as their biggest supporter can also lead us to making the biggest mistake when parenting our athletes. As parents we recognize our children’s goals, and we set forth to do everything in our power to help them reach them. That’s a good parent. A great parent, however; helps them focus on their goals without losing focus on who they are.
We must help our children understand that they define their goals. Their goals do not define them. You see, raising a successful athlete is a balancing act. Go for the extra training, the traveling, the best equipment, the giving it 110%. Of that I am fully behind, but also realize there’s a slippery slope we parents are on when it comes to championing our young athletes. The greatest thing you can do for your athlete is to help them realize that their sport is what they do, not who they are. The danger in finding their identity in what they do is the lack of guarantee that they will be able to do that thing without end. Unfortunately, injuries occur. Team cuts are made. Playing time varies. The strong athlete will overcome these obstacles and become even stronger when he knows who he is aside from his sport.
Pay attention to when you give your child praise. Is it always related to sports? Are you also praising the moments that show character and integrity? The moments that show hard work and commitment in the classroom? Do you ever let him of her know they’re an awesome kid just because you enjoy hanging out with them? Pride in what they do in their sport is essential, and parents should be their children’s greatest cheering section. Just make sure they know there are several paths to making you proud, and that their sport is not the only route. As much as you nurture their athletic ability, search for the other strengths they have and help them develop them.
Being an athlete is one of the greatest and most rewarding roles there is. Sports bring out a person’s strengths, passion, and drive. They cause one to reach deep within and do more than they realized they were capable of. They teach true commitment not only to an individual goal, but to a team. Goals will be set. Some will be reached. Some won’t, but ultimately as parents, our main goal should be raising great human beings. Those who in the midst of both success and defeat know that they are more than an athlete, they're more than what they do, and we are proud of who they are.
Read More Article by Amber Michel
The Athlete's Parent Editor
An on-the-go mother of 3 young athletes, and wife to a youth football coach, Amber's passion is to educate, encourage, and connect our sports community to raise a generation of healthy and successful athletes! She proudly does this with the help of The Athlete's Parent's team of experts.