A lot of kids love sports, Mary Ellen included. I’m glad she does. Kids can learn a lot from sports—teamwork, perseverance, setting goals and working toward them, how to lose, how to win, how to get up and keep going when you’re hurt. Sports, of course, aren’t the only avenue for these lessons. Band, orchestra, choir, and drama come to mind as good teachers for many of these skills.
And sports have some drawbacks. Have you read Beartown by Fredrik Backman? But parents, and others, can put unacceptable expectations on children in a lot of ways. So, we’ll concentrate on the positives.
Mary Ellen has played basketball, soccer, and volleyball. She liked basketball, loves soccer, and played volleyball at too young of an age. When the ball doesn’t get over the net more than twice in a serve, the excitement of the game wanes. So she signs up for every soccer season.
She’s a good player—plays hard, runs fast, wants to win. Last weekend, her team lost to worst team in the league. Aargh! Gnashing of teeth. “I played awful. The coach is mad at us!” Tears. “She said we didn’t work together.” Ah ha!
I admit that my reflex parenting action on this one took its good time kicking in. To sympathize, coddle, console, make excuses? I waited a while.
At bedtime, I told Mary Ellen I was proud of her for being upset that they lost to the worst team in the league. And, that if she wanted to continue to play sports, she needed to get used to coaches who yell when the team plays badly. I also told her that the only solution was to identify the problem, fix it, and try again.
I decided that was the first lesson that needed to be learned, and the one that goes “even great players have bad games, forgive yourself” will have to wait. Its time will come.
As my friend, Jodi Thomas, says. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you get rained out.” There’s a lesson in all of them.
Here’s hoping that when the time comes, I find the right words to teach them.
If you have stories of lessons learned from sports, please share them.