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How to Win at Sports Parenting:
Maximizing the Sports Experience for You and Your Child
By Jim and Janet Sundberg
This book is highly recommended, and is so full of wisdom about the entire youth sports experience, and really about life, that it is really a must-read for anyone with children playing sports. Jim Sundberg spent 22 years in major league baseball, including winning a World Championship with the Kansas City Royals. Janet Sundberg is a behavioral specialist focusing on the area of organizational health. In this book, the Sundbergs talk about life lessons, the pressures of youth sports, how to get what you really want out of sports as a family, how to relate to the coaches, and more, including specific guidance questions and suggestions for implementing your family sports game plan. We are sharing with you some excerpts in the hopes that you will have the opportunity to read this book. (Our copy was purchased at Lifeway, and was published by WaterBrook Press.)
Chapter Four: Growing Wiser Through Winning and Losing
... I’m sure most of us parents could benefit from a more realistic attitude about what athletic competition can and cannot do for our kids. We can begin by asking ourselves why we want our sons and daughters to participate in the first place.
My answer is simple: personal growth.
... When our children come to see the positive lessons they can learn in both winning and losing, then they’ve grown immeasurably in a kind of wisdom that will serve them all of their lives.
... We want the respect of our parents and our peers, and we want to have fun. In winning we experience so many of those good things, and we are called to one response from it all: thankfulness... for the opportunity to compete, for our opponents being worthy and respected, and for the brief moments in which we sense that something more wonderful than this material world must surely exist.
Losing is an excellent means of reality testing. It pushes us to come to grips with the way things really are. What is it about our team—or about me as a player—that we’ve assumed was “working?” ... What needs to change? [Losing] reminds us that wishing for something does not make it happen. That’s reality.
... Losing forces our children to confront limits and weaknesses.
... Coming to know the boundaries and limits of their expertise, then, is actually a form of guidance for life. And you can take pride in seeing your child develop a sense of self-sufficiency, even as she’s discovering her own abilities and limits.
... there’s something about suffering that is vitally important for growing the human soul, and it’s not a process that’s for adults only.
Chapter Ten: Get to Know the Coach!
... From the coach’s perspective, what’s best for the team takes precedence over player politics.
... Coaches aren’t going to pull players they feel can help them win games because, as you move up into the higher competition levels, the focus will be more and more on winning the game. The goal of winning is a reality that we must adjust to as we move through the sporting years, and we do our kids a disservice not to prepare them for that kind of world after they leave the nest.
Epilogue: Time-out for Questions.
So your kid really messed up and made a serious blunder on the field?
... Ever seen a big-leaguer bounce one off his head?
... Wait until tomorrow for any meaningful conversation. The child needs time to feel bad, to cry, to feel disappointed. Give him plenty of room for that. Hold back, listen, touch, reflect back all the pain-filled comments, but don’t offer criticism or advice.
If he wants to talk in the morning, then spend most of your time listening.
... Affirm those feelings. It is thoroughly appropriate for a human being to feel bad after making a mistake.
. . . Help your child learn how to move through grief—a very useful adult skill, since we require it any time we lose something of value to us.
Down the road... show them how to do it right.