Can’t We All Just Match?

Great exchange from Airplane,

“Maybe we oughta turn on the search lights now?”  Rex Kramer’s response, “No, that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do.”

rex kramer

Who knew this classic line could have such real life applications.  I find myself quoting it often.  It serves as a great reminder: do the right thing instead of simply doing what you think others are expecting you to do.  The key there is that God provides the definition of what is the right thing and I cannot take it upon myself to alter it.  Otherwise, it’s a healthy exercise to always ask why and to figure out who you’re trying to please: self, others, or God.

Maybe I see myself as a poster boy for “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, refusing to conform to superficial expectations.  Living for God does not require that we look or sound a certain way.  I dress like a bum, talk like a hillbilly, and rarely shave (and I’m probably guilty of intentionally making it too easy for others to misjudge me by appearances).   Maybe in the same way we judge our youth by their appearances?

You can’t see someones heart by looking at their hair, clothes, tattoos, or nose rings.

clown car

Or in this case, by their loud shoes and socks.  First impression as a coach:  you’re not wearing those loud colors that scream “look at me!” like a Chad Johnson touchdown celebration.  Teams should match (why?……ok, just because Bobby Knight is rolling over in his grave and he’s not dead yet……ok not a good reason).  OK, these are acceptable, because I do know these young men, and I do get a glimpse of their heart each time we’re together to practice or play.

Character, integrity, and intelligence cannot be measured by outward appearance.

And life is just too short to worry about matching.

Daddy, I Did It!

KR Macy Disney

Take a small child to a putt-putt golf course. Play 18 holes, don’t use a score card. See what happens each time they sink a putt, even if it takes 12 tries? They look back at mom or dad to see if you are watching. You may not hear the incessant “daddy, watch!”, but they look for you after each accomplishment, each small victory. Approval. Encouragement. Don’t be distracted by scorecards and schedules to the point that you miss countless opportunities each day to cheer them on. Teach them to believe in themselves.

Take a step back from the line of fire.  Don’t get so caught up in their actions that you miss their reactions.  At a Disney parade when a small child sees a favorite character up close for the first time, don’t watch the character.  Treasure the look of wonder on your childs face.  When they catch their first fish, don’t let your attention be taken by the darn fish.   Enjoy the look of accomplishment that glows in their smile.  First time they swing the bat and make contact with a ball, shut up about how they can do it better the next time.   Look on their face for a new look of confidence and triumph.

My three oldest kids have played three and four sports each.  My youngest son, even though he has been encouraged many times to try a sport, has never tried to compete in any sport.  Why had he never tried, in a sports-crazy family?  An overheard conversation with another boy, “because I’m just not good at any sports.”

Ouch!  And double ouch!  Lesson learned.  Encouraging someone to do something IS NOT the same thing as encouraging them to believe they can do it, to believe in themselves.  I’m not a child pschologist by any means (but I’ve seen every episode of Leave It To Beaver and Andy Griffith), but I assume that kids are always looking to their parents for their response, for their approval, for their encouragement……….because they doubt.  When we fail to chase away the doubt, it becomes fear, fear of failure I suppose.  Fear leads adults to be frozen in place.  Fear cannot lead our children to a life of “inaction”.

kal 5k

Recently, Kal finished a 5K race (his first, obviously).  I was caught behind him encouraging him along the route, so I didn’t get to see his face when he crossed the finish line.  Thankfully a dear friend captured a real treasure of a picture.  The look on his face,

“Mom, Dad, I did it!”

Take care to notice and celebrate each small victory with your kids.  Watch the looks on their faces.  Look for daily opportunities to teach them to conquer their fears.  It’s ok to fail………it’s not ok to be controlled by a fear of failure.

No, I won’t be one of THOSE dads!

Age 4.  That first time your son or daughter takes the dive into the world of sports.  Soccer, T-Ball, Basketball, Flag Football, anything.  You may think you know what you’re doing as a parent as this journey starts.  But really, you haven’t a clue.  Not only do you have no clue how you’re going to guide your children through this journey, you can’t even begin to guess how they are going to react and perform as they enter the world of competition.  Ten years ago, my timid, daisy-picking child took the soccer field for the first time and hyperventilated from the excitement and exertion of competition.  Rushing back to the present, it’s easy to see the trial & error, missed steps, overreactions, and lessons learned along the journey.  And like so many other things in life, when you finally have a grip on it (what is beneficial, what is healthy, what has value vs what is worthless), you discover that you are no longer doing it anymore.  It is too late to put into practice all that you have learned on your journey.  Hopefully this list will provide at least some value to some of those people in the opening stages of the crazy world of youth sports….before it’s too late.

will ferrell soccer

1)  Never pass up a chance at home to pass baseball or football, shoot baskets, or kick a soccer ball with your kids.  And don’t wait for them to ask.  They will rarely turn down your offer as long as you “play” with them instead of “coaching” them.
2)  Don’t speak critically of coaches in the presence of children.  Kids’ prospects of having fun and improving are crippled when they are convinced that their coach is clueless.
3)  Our kids aren’t gonna be the next Lebron James or Peyton Manning.  Lighten up.  When we cultivate a fun experience and a love of the game at younger ages, they have a greater chance of developing their own high level of dedication as they grow older.
4)  Coaches aren’t perfect or brilliant or perfectly brilliant.  If they were, they wouldn’t be coaching our kids.  Usually they are volunteering for a job that nobody else wanted.  If they’re paid, they’re making about a $1 an hour for their time and effort.  Be patient and forgiving of their mistakes.  Set realistic expectations.
5)  Look for opportunities to teach your kids the importance of effort, attitude, and good practice habits, as well as being responsible for their own success/fun/outcomes.  As kids progress through middle school and high school years, the main thing that separates one player (or team) from another is A) how much time they spent developing skills on their own time and   B) how much effort they choose to put into organized practice time.
6)  Bite your tongue until it bleeds.  Don’t tell your kids what they did wrong or what they could do better…..unless they ask.  This rule applies especially to the car ride after a game.  Tell them what they did well.  Tell them how you love to watch them play.
7)  Never forget how much your approval means to them.  Cheer and encourage every chance you get.  It’s a miserable experience for kids who seem to play to please their parents…..when they begin to feel they can’t possibly please them no matter what they do.  They will never have a perfect game or practice.  Don’t make them feel like they should.
 8)  Don’t coach from the sidelines or bleachers.  Kids’ minds are blown by trying to play a fast-paced game (that they possibly don’t understand yet)  while they are trying to sort out whether to listen to their coach or their dad or mom.  Kids learn best in game situations simply by playing, not by over-coaching.  Practice time is instruction time.
9)  Teach them to not make excuses. Never blame a referee.  Quality of refereeing is almost always better than the quality of play.  Critical talk of referees in front of children is quickly interpreted to mean that a loss is somebody else’s fault.  (So talk about the refs when the kids aren’t around and choose your outbursts wisely….we all have them)
10)  Winning isn’t the most important thing, but doing your best is.  Kids have to know that it’s never ok to half-way do anything.  It’s not a good idea to ever tell kids they played bad, but sometimes it’s necessary to find the right words to let them know that their level of effort could have been better.

Obviously, I have learned all these things the hard way (by screwing them up).  So if anybody has more to share, I would love to hear them since I am still learning.

macy 2003     DSC00132

Oh yeah, MOST IMPORTANT ONE- for extra points
11)  Every game isn’t the end of the world.  Watch, cheer, encourage…………..and enjoy the funnest years of your life.  It will be over too soon and then you’ll be back at home , bored and looking for the Beverly Hillbillies on Netflix.