In my last post I talked a bit about how kids and parents focus on youth sports. I want to take this a bit further here. As I mentioned before, kids deserve the freedom to concentrate on their game without undue interference from grown-ups. As they grow, their level of focus increases along with the effort they put forth, and they invest a great deal of themselves in that small window of time in which they are playing a game.
Once the game is over, however, their physical, mental, and emotional investment in the activity needs time to recharge. The peaks and valleys of the competition they’ve experienced can begin to even out, and their focus on other interests and people naturally take precedence. After the final whistle, kids forget the result within minutes. They know what happened during the game (and certainly do not need to experience the blow-by-blow retelling once inside the mini-van pressure-cooker, by the way).
The fact is that the sport your child plays is only one facet of his life. Well-rounded kids have other interests, from school to friends to hobbies to any number of things. Focusing as a parent on one single activity – no matter the level – sends the wrong message to your child. We all want our children to grow and become responsible adults. Unfortunately, sometimes we ask kids to develop a single-mindedness at too young an age, and that takes away from their overall personal development. Let kids focus on the task at hand (whatever it is), and then allow them to embrace other interests. Curiosity is a good thing; it allows a child to learn more about their own world, and perhaps ultimately match their talents to their interests.
Regardless how skilled a young athlete is, the benefits of competition include learning the process and effort required to step out of one’s comfort zone and master something. This idea transfers to any endeavor. As an athlete needs freedom to play, he also needs the freedom to explore other pursuits and develop a broader base of interests. This fosters well-rounded people, who can appreciate the simple fact that life is about more than any one activity.
As a parent, when the game is over, take a cue from your child and recognize what he already knows. He has invested all of himself into that activity for the length of the game. Now it’s done and it’s time to move on to something else. As tempting as it may be, don’t rehash the past; simply encourage another positive influence or interest in your child’s life.