How not playing can be a teachable moment too! part 1

youth-sports-parentsYour son has a big sporting event. It’s early in the morning and you anticipate that it’s going to be a hardship on you and him because of the time and the long ride to the event. Imagine waking him up at 5:30 a.m. as planned, and he rolls over and says, “I have a stomach ache,” in a whiny, unfamiliar and especially sickly voice. After a moment or two of reflection, you realize that this isn’t completely news to you. You vaguely recall at that ungodly hour of the morning, that he was awake for a small moment the night before, complaining about his stomach.

But now you are up, ready to go.  Yet your son is not. What do you do? Do you make him go to the game anyway?

You can see that he isn’t really tired; maybe he will feel better when he gets up. You can tell by touching his forehead head that no fever is present and you ask him if he hurts anywhere else. With his eyes still shut, he shakes their head ‘no.’ This is your son, the one who at age five dragged you out of bed at 5:30am on a Sunday morning because he didn’t want to miss playing right wing for his hockey team. Now he’s 10 and telling you he’s too sick to play in the first soccer tournament of the spring season. He rarely misses anything, you want to believe that he is sick and yet you don’t. What do you do?

Not knowing what is behind the pain and reluctance on this particular day to attend this particular tournament, you recognize it is unusual behavior for him. Consequently, you respect his request and encourage him to go back to sleep, promising to talk later about whatever else might be going on.

Even so, now you are up and miffed. You call the other parent whose son was riding with you to let her know you won’t be going. Once your son wakes, you have to deal with it. You have to talk and decide: Was something else going on? Or did he really just eat the wrong thing the night before?

All of this is part of being a good parent, yet it can also be the most challenging part of the job. We want what’s best for our child and yet as he gets older, he has the ability to make decisions, which we need to support. As parents, we must listen to our children and encourage them to speak up about what’s happening because it’s the only way to grow. We’re willing to sacrifice our entire days, to drive more than three hours and spend five hours at a tournament, but if he’s decided, “he doesn’t feel like it,” it’s a good opportunity to talk through the implications.

Why?  Because sports are not about whether our children attend the game. Athletics are a means to an end, the end being character development, sportsmanship, confidence, leadership, teamwork and numerous other qualities that develop as a result of playing on a team. And when we know this, we can trust our child when he has a reason for not getting up.

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