Since Nick was about 18 months old,
we’ve I’ve dreamed about what sports he would play when he grew up. At 3 months old I inquired about swimming lessons. “Not until he’s 6 months old” I was told. Nippers? 5 years old, same as soccer, little athletics, and any sport really! At 3 I inquired about tennis lessons. “About 6-7 is when they really start to get their strength” the pro said.
I grew up playing golf, tennis and volleyball as my main sports, but would give anything a go, given the chance. My mum didn’t particularly care what we did, but we had to do something. We weren’t the kids who hung out at the cinemas and shopping centers on weekends with friends, we were always off to some event or another.
So now that he’s finally in prep, and swimming is over for the winter, he’s enrolled in tennis and soccer, both of which he loves and has a ball at (sorry, no pun intended!). The problem comes when he doesn’t score a goal OR when the other team (in soccer) scores a goal. There are tears, sometimes there is stomping off the field. He even cried when someone on his team scored a goal, because it wasn’t him. And this past Saturday he told me one of the kids on his team punched him. I didn’t see it, but he was really upset and he wouldn’t have been that upset over nothing.
Here I am, finding myself at the doorstep to every future sporting experience my son has. I think it’s important to make these experiences good from the start, or they won’t want to come back. I want to find that delicate balance that lies between coddling him and pushing him back out there with a “Suck it up son!”
But where do I start? How do I start? The word “loser” has come out of Nick’s mouth on several occasions. I know it is because he’s heard it at school, but I’m unsure of the context. I want to nip this in the bud before it gets any bigger.
The problem is….I haven’t exactly
always ever been the best sportsmanship award candidate. I may or may not have (ok I definitely have) uttered phrases like “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY thing” or “2nd place is 1st loser” in the past. I am competitive. I don’t like to lose. Before I had kids, I thought “participation awards” were dumb. First, second, third if you must, but nothing for coming last! Now that I have a kid, who will be going through the heartache of losing, the trials and tribulations of sportsmanship, honesty, doing the right thing, dealing with cheating/cheaters, I am terrified.
How can I preach something I haven’t practiced? How can I support and encourage him without making him feel pressure to win or be the best? I have to admit, this is why I struggle with running…If I can’t be really good at something, then I don’t want to do it. I don’t want him to fall into the same mind frame.
So, parents, I’m calling on you all to point me in the right direction – books, blogs, resources, personal experience….now that we are venturing into the wide world of children’s sports, what pointers do you have for ensuring it’s a positive experience? For us both!?