Though I was never very athletically inclined myself, I love the potential found in sports to grow our kids both physically and emotionally. I firmly believe we can use sports to shape godly character in our kids. And I want to encourage other parents. In the hustle and bustle and sometimes the unavoidable burnout that can accompany the sports seasons, please don’t miss the opportunities to grow your child’s character in the process.
Winning may not be everything, but you can bet this mama is keeping score!
Some may say I’m a little too intense. I prefer to say I’m passionate. I am not one of those “everybody gets a trophy” kind of team-moms. And my coaching and cheering has been known to be heard from a couple of fields away. My voice carries. What can I say?
I love that our kids are at the age of exploring sports. Finding strengths and narrowing the list of all those options. Mikaela is in her fourth season of softball, and after 3 rounds of t-ball, Holden recently tried his hand at basketball.
I see these tender years as the perfect time to teach our kids valuable lessons that will follow them wherever life may lead. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t, but what matters most is that you learn to always do your best and ensure you can be both a good winner and a good loser. Above all, we want them to keep a great attitude and a humble, coachable spirit.
With these goals in mind, here are five of our best tips for coaching our kids both on and off the field:
1. Be a good sport: We tell our kids that sportsmanship is making sure you, your teammates, and your opponents have a good time. When it comes to team sports, it is important for our kids to recognize that if they don’t do their best and keep a good attitude it not only affects them; it affects everyone else as well.
We challenge our kids to be leaders on the field and in the dugout. (On the court and on the bench.) We want to hear them encouraging their teammates. Just because they are not playing at the moment does not mean they are not still in the game.
Tell your kids to encourage others. To make others feel the way they themselves want to feel. It really helps to take the pressure off when they make it their personal goal to ensure that everyone out there is having a good time and feeling good about themselves. In the long run they will do better. They will feel better. They will enjoy the game more, and they’ll have a lot more friends.
2. Be different: As followers of Jesus Christ the Bible tells us to be holy as God is holy. (Deuteronomy 14:2; 1 Peter 1:15 ) The word holy means to be set apart. We tell our kids there should be something different about them because they are Christians. The fact is people are always watching.
We expect our kids to always hustle. If their feet are on the field (or the court) they should be hustling. I truly believe hustle is a great indicator of attitude. One very practical way we challenge Mikaela to walk out the call to be different is if a baseman gets her out, before she turns and walks off to her dugout, to look them in the eye and say, “Good play.” It’s fun to watch the look on the other player’s face, and it really has an impact.
3. Be coachable: Perhaps one of the most frustrating occurrences is when a coach (who is sometimes Tim or myself) gives advice, and we see the child shrink back as if being reprimanded. You know the look. Head down, shoulders up, pitifully looking up at you through batting eyelashes with quivering lips. Drives us crazy!
We want our kids to take responsibility. Not to take everything as a rebuke, but rather as a pointer that is meant to help them improve. This is a principle that has to be reiterated quite often. The temptation to feel sorry for themselves is a very real and natural part of their desire for attention and pity.
We teach our kids the importance of being coachable. (On and off the field…coachable in sports, teachable in life) We tell the kids that when a coach (or parent, or teacher) corrects or instructs them they should put their chin up and shoulders back. Then, instead of a lame, often unnecessary, “I’m sorry,” to say, with a positive, clear tone, “Yes coach.” Or, “Thanks, coach. Got it, coach.” We want to encourage them to take responsibility for any mistakes and to see correction and advise as help, not as a personal attack.
4. Be determined to get back up: A verse I use a lot with the kids, especially when they are learning new things, is Proverbs 24:16, “Though a righteous person falls seven times, he will get up.” Through these formative years, whether learning to ride a bike or to control their temper, I often tell the kids, “I’d rather see you mess up and keep a good attitude than for you to never make a mistake at all.”
I’m after their heart more than their abilities. Our pastor has a saying, “If you don’t quit you can’t lose.” While that may be more true in life than in sports, there is a great underlying truth here. The only real loser is the one who quits, gives up, or perhaps never truly tries.
5. Be your best: The number one thing I always tell the kids is, “You don’t have to be the best, but you do have to do your best.” We base this on the principle of Colossians 3:23. “Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men,”
Ask either of our kiddos Who we do our best for, and they will tell you for God. Let’s face it, encouraging our kids to do their best as a way to honor God, thank Him for His gifts, and show love to Him carries a lot more weight than, “Because I said so.”
Holden is just learning basketball. He’s the smallest one on the team, and he’d never even touched a basketball until the first practice. I have told him I couldn’t care less if he never makes one shot all season as long as I can tell he’s giving it his all and doing his very best. That is all that truly matters. When Mikaela is up to bat, if she doesn’t make it to first base because she hits a line drive or she hits the ball right to the pitcher, and they make an easy play for an out on first, that’s totally fine. That’s the way it goes. If, however, she were to not make it to first base because she was not running her hardest and not paying attention, then I would not be happy. Same ending. Different cause.
There are so many opportunities in everyday life for our kids to grow, learn and make a difference. Let’s focus more on their character than their performance, and the rest will likely follow.
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