Recently a friend asked me if I had written a post about what I say to my children after they have participated in a sporting event. While I have written on similar topics, I have never addressed this thoroughly. This I probably best because my words have changed through the years. Walking through sports with four boys and being down to my last year and a half of their participation has changed me. My views are different than 15 years ago when we started into youth sports. As a long-time sports parent and a Christian, here is what I say after the game.
- Did you have fun? Somewhere along the way, sports became something serious. Listen, it is a game. It is meant to be fun. If it is not fun, you should not participate.
- How do you feel? This is a two-fold question. First, how do they feel physically? When you take sports too seriously, your child will not tell you about their physical pain for fear of missing a game and disappointing you. Second, how are they emotionally? Coaches, teammates, and fans can be brutal with their words. Ask and let them share.
- Tell me about your favorite play. My kids have lost games by 50 points and still had fun. This is because there was that one play where they did that one thing, and it made them happy. They want to tell you about their joy.
- Did the coaches tell you anything on which to work? Do you feel there is anything you need to do better? This will often allow them to talk about their worst play. Coach says I need to do blank better is often inspired by their most embarrassing moment. Get it out into the open and talk about it. Acknowledge the mistake so that they can move on with their life.
- I Love You. I want my kids to know how I feel about them, no matter the outcome of the game. If they made the mistake that led to the other team winning, who cares? It is youth sports. My relationship with them will last long into the future when these games are barely a memory.
These are the most basic things I talk to my children about after a game. Sometimes all of these come up naturally and occasionally just two or three of them. These are the topics that always guide my conversations. I have quit trying to offer coaching advice unless asked. I might share insight into something I saw, again, only if asked. I keep stats at games so they can evaluate themselves on facts and not emotions. These days I always try to stay positive, win or lose.
One final word for all parents: I plead with you to not take sports too seriously. I have raised four incredibly gifted athletes, and three of them spoke with colleges about scholarships. It is a complete scam that colleges are running. They are not what you think. Unless your kid is an incredible physical specimen that is one of the top three players in your state, their scholarship opportunities are worthless. It will be a few thousand dollars for a way overpriced private school. I guarantee it will not be worth the money you spend, the time lost, and the headaches you endure for all those weekends of travel sports. Those events are offered to make money off you. You MUST understand this is true to enjoy this time with your children.
I pray you will allow your kids to enjoy this part of their life should they chose to play sports. I hope my words are an encouragement to you. May the Lord bless you as you live for him while raising teens in today’s highly competitive world.