We had the Cub Scout Olympics this weekend, which is a very casual execution of six physical activities including the javelin, standing long jump, baseball throw, long jump, football kick and a sprint.
It made me think of the fact that we are all out here on the eve of, in the midst of, or watching the sun set on the sports activities of our ‘little’ ones. As I watched parents interact with their children in each of the activities, I thought about a TED talk I listened to, with a critical message for parents everywhere.
John Sullivan, who is the founder of the Changing the Game Project, coached and played at all levels of soccer including at the professional level. The TED talk is a short 14 minutes and worth every single minute. He speaks of the attrition rates of children athletes and one of the main contributing factors: the parents and coaches. Mr. Sullivan emphasizes, you should only say a few words to your child after a practice or a game and they are,
“I love watching you play.”
You should watch what he says here.
Anyway, as I sat in the shade from the scorching sun and observed the yellow-shirt clad athletes casually rotate through the competition, I saw an assortment of athletes and the variety of parents we all encounter (or are) at our child’s sporting activities. There was a mix of six to twelve-year olds with varying levels of interest in the competition, but they had one thing in common: they were all sincerely trying their best.
There were the boys who competed as if an Olympic podium was at the other end of the activity and their performance was a pinnacle point to putting them one step closer to the likes of Michael Phelps. There were the ones who didn’t quite sprint through the finish line, but yet still wanted to do well.
And, there was the child who insisted his mother had counted incorrectly at each and every event. Concluding at the end, when he whined and cried a frustrated protest, that he wanted a blue bubble necklace. He wanted to win so badly and couldn’t handle that he actually didn’t.
Then, there were the parents. Despite my drinking the Kool-Aid of the TED talk I mentioned above, I still wanted so deeply for my son to walk away with the blue bubble necklace prize and continue on at the district-level Cub Scout Olympics. He came in second and he was smitten with the day because he had fun.
About two years ago, I was that mom who struggled to be quiet at his lacrosse game as I watched him play at a lackluster level practically being spun around by the children hustling around him. I had seen the TED talk. My husband had seen the TED talk. We both found ourselves screaming, “RUN!” from the sidelines while waving our arms. And, as if that wasn’t enough for a pair of informed parents, we followed up with questioning him in the car in a frustrated tone as to why he wouldn’t just run.
After the season, my son did not want to play in the lacrosse league again and I sincerely believe we are responsible.
Most of the parents silently watched the Scout Olympics from the sidelines. Some parents walked the child through how to do each activity before it was their turn to make sure they were able to give their best effort. We did this at least once. Okay probably two times. For goodness sakes, our child wasn’t being awarded a key to a vault with the cure to cancer locked inside if he threw a baseball 50 feet. It didn’t really matter. We only interrupted his independent participation as a Cub Scout.
What on Earth is wrong with us?
Then, there was the one dad I observed who pulled his son aside after he completed the long jump and corrected his technique in a slightly sweet yet disappointed tone telling him he should have done it this way instead. As if he is going to remember that next year. He realized what he was doing and ended with a non-convincing “but that’s okay.”
Honestly, I am with John Sullivan from the Ted Talk. We all just need to be quiet.
Guess who won my son’s age group? The son of the guy who stood and smiled on the side line, quietly encouraging with a smile. Giving a high five occasionally at the completion of the activities. The father barely said two words. His kid won.
I’m really competitive and it is difficult for me to step back. I actually believe one of my kids could become a paid professional athlete. Please note: I am not married to Peyton Manning or Al Rodriguez and, if you recall from reading this, I have delusions of grandeur. I am still waiting for Jimmy Fallon, Martha and Chip & Jo to respond to my tweets or for Chip and Jo to visit us. They will right?
Honestly, just like you, I want my children to be the most-successful they can be as athletes, as students and has humans. I must remind myself that whatever that level is (deep breath – if any) – it is their best and their best is good enough. After all it is the best. And, don’t we do our best when we are having fun with what we are doing? Thus, if they are having fun (unspoiled by us on the sidelines), won’t they be giving their best effort?
If we look at it all statistically, it certainly is not impossible for a child to become a professional athlete. But, it is not very possible either. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, only a tiny percentage of high school athletes will go professional. As a matter of fact, only 1 in 168 or .595% of high school baseball players will get drafted by a Major League Baseball team. And, if you have aspirations of your child playing in the NBA his chance is 1 in 2,451 or .04%.
It just isn’t that likely, so we really should listen to what John Sullivan says about our children and sports. Otherwise, we might be diagnosed with achievement by proxy distortion, which is a disorder that has been defined in order to describe parents’ gross over-desire for their children to succeed in sports. Guess what? No one has time for that! 😉
This was our second Cub Scout Olympics in the year of 2017, but the actual Olympics have been around since ancient Greek times. The first Olympic games can be traced to 776 BC. The games took place on the ancient plains of Olympia and were dedicated to the Olympian gods.
They continued for twelve centuries until a decree was made in 393 A.D. by Emperor Theodosius, that the games were pagan and should be banned.
All free male Greek citizens were allowed to participate regardless of their social level. Unmarried women could attend the games as spectators, however married women were not allowed to participate in or to watch the games.
The Olympic Games took place over the course of one day until 684 BC when they were elongated to three days. And, in the 5th century, they were extended to five days. Games included running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, pankration (wrestling/boxing type of game) and equestrian events.
In 1896, the first modern-day Olympics took place with the United States winning the most gold medals (11) and Greece winning the most medals over all (46). Today the Summer Olympic Games boast 42 different sports, while the winter games have 15 sports. In 2016 206 countries competed in Brazil at the summer Olympic Games.
In 2020, Tokyo will host the Summer Olympic Games. I won’t see you there, but maybe 2024 is a possibility. 😉
Until then, if you happen to bump into a famous athlete, what would you say? You probably would say, “I love watching you play.” Just remember that :-).
xo Melissa the mamabrain at mamabrains