I’ve been watching my son play team sports for the last 13 years. My daughter just started playing them this year. My son is graduating from High School next month and I’ve been in a very reflective mood lately – especially as his last game gets closer and closer. There’s a lot to be learned from watching kids play and I’m sharing some of my observations with you today.
- Don’t underestimate a player based on appearance. Time and time again I have watched this play out. People (myself included) make assumptions based on how someone looks and behaves only to find out how terribly wrong they were. I have seen “gangly” kids go toe to toe against “stocky” kids on the offensive line in football and have had to close my eyes – certain someone was going to be injured – only to watch those stocky kids blocked over and over again. Will, determination, understanding their job on the team and the impact to the team if they don’t perform and the simple joy of playing goes a long way.
- When you get knocked down, get back up (unless of course you’re seriously injured). Sometimes, players on the opposing side do things that test the other sides mettle. Getting back up shows your teammates and the other team spirit and drive. It also serves to challenge the other team to really focus on their game and not their play. Getting up requires individual strength and determination that everyone appreciates – coaches, fans, officials and teammates. When you get up, in effect you’re telling the other person to “bring it” and that unspoken message radiates from the rest of your team.
- Recognize and celebrate great players and teams whether it’s your own or not. All teams work hard together, over a long period of time and give their best on the field. As an opposing player or team respecting and admiring what’s great on the field is special and shows that you care about more than the win. If you do happen to be on the winning team, you earn the respect of the other team. If you’re on the losing team – same thing AND you win in a different way.
- Don’t be the team who is clearly better and run up the score on the less-experienced teams. Those teams suck. Instead be the team who is gracious and shows true sportsmanship. You will earn the respect and admiration of the teams you play and those who are watching. Also, the teams will learn a lot from you that goes far beyond skill. Sure, those amazing teams can be fun to watch initially simply due to how well they play together, ultimately they end up being the team everyone roots against (except the parents of the sucky, winning team).
- As an observer (aka: parent in the stands) your job is to support and celebrate. Anything else is wasted energy and counter-productive. If you happen to actually know something about the sport because you have played it yourself and you think you have something of value to share, share it after the game and, preferably in private. Sharing it during the game just crushes the player and team spirit which serves to NOT HELP AT ALL. Plus, all the other observers feel embarrassed for you.
- Be the veteran who celebrates the rookie. When someone who is new to the sport tries out or plays, the veteran players who teach, help, coach and encourage the newbie are the ones who are seen as and become team leaders. They are the ones who create a unique and special experience for the new player and the team.
- One the game ends, focus on your team and the next game. The team who immediately disperses and goes home isn’t a strong team. When the game is over get with your team, celebrate your successes, focus on where you want to improve immediately and get ready for the next game.
Have any of your own to share? Would love to read your stories in the comments.