At a recent T-ball game that my four-year-old grandson Caleb was “starring” in (maybe an overstatement), an incident occurred that motivated me to write this blog.
As I stood watching a young boy batting, I heard a voice yell, “Jimmy, choke up! Move your right foot back! Get your elbow up.” Instantaneously, a coach close to the young boy just looked at the parent who shouted, and just shook his head.
Parents Gone Wild
I know many former coaches, umpires and league officials who share an all too common complaint: parents. Not every parent, of course, but some “sports parents” are so fixated on their own suspended aspirations that they fail to appreciate the dreams of their children. Furthermore, many of these sports parents are so obnoxious, some even violent, that coaches and officials are walking away rather than having to listen to the screams, taunts and experience physical abuse from these parents in the stands and on the sidelines.
The percentages of children who successfully negotiate a career from little league through to a professional contract or even a division one collegiate team are infrequent – for all sports. Some parents fail to appreciate that fact. Instead, they see paydays that are almost as unattainable as winning the lottery and bragging rights that only underline their blemishes.
Competing Through Your Child
Growing up I had a friend who was incredibly talented in baseball. People told Tom’s father repeatedly his boy had talent as early as little league. Tom’s father pushed him into a traveling league, then summer baseball camps and individual hitting and fielding coaches. Tom made it onto our high school team and was a varsity starter. His father pressed him to excel relentlessly, and sure enough, Tom received a baseball scholarship.
Tom’s father did not let up and told his son that he “had the goods” to get into professional baseball and to become very wealthy and do the family proud.
I remember the day, and where I was standing the moment, Tom said, “I don’t want to play baseball, I’m burned out, and I’ve had enough.”
His father told him he was an ungrateful son. In his senior year at college, Tom had a .323 batting average and was gaining the attention of many baseball scouts. However, there was a problem. Tom was starting to resent the practices and the games deeply. Skills-wise he was performing, but his heart was empty. He just wanted to play out his scholarship and then pursue another career.
“You’re throwing away your life,” said his father, “and all we’ve planned for you.”
In the winter of 1980, Tom was approached by scouts and offered a minor league baseball contract to play for the Cincinnati Reds. Tom turned them down, and his father was livid. “How dare you, after all, we’ve done for you!” shouted his father.
Land Your Helicopter
As we hover over our children as parents, we are more involved than ever. Involvement is okay, but when our kids’ sports life becomes more about our needs, and us, then we’ve crossed the line. A lot of times parents tend to gauge their self-esteem on how well their child does. They say things like, “Did you see how well my son or daughter did?” Chances are they are trying to make up for something that they didn’t do when they were younger, or something that they did do, and they want their child to live up to them.
Our children do not want a play-by-play analysis during the car ride home. They want to feel like you enjoyed watching them play as much as they enjoyed playing.
It is perfectly healthy and natural to want better for your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. However, wanting better does not mean forcing your vision or your failed dreams on a child who doesn’t want them at all.
The goal is for them to grow up and love what they do, and most importantly, appreciate “why they are doing it. My desire for my children and grandchildren are for them to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted, self-supporting adults with a career they are passionate about. For too many years, I lived my life for acceptance and realized one day I was disgruntled because of rejection.
Instead of trying to control and change people, it’s time we accept them. If you want to change something, begin with understanding. But if you’re going to love something, start with acceptance. It’s time to trade expectations for acceptance.