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Too often as parents we are compelled to step in

From the day my kids started to get involved in sports, I vowed never to be that parent. You know the kind, right? Always vocal, always assessing and evaluating, always pointing our successes and failures, and always questioning the role of my kid on any given team.
I would not, I always said to myself, yell at an official, question a coach or get caught up in the classic sideline parent banter.
These are behaviors that, in nearly two decades of coaching, officiating and reporting, I’d witnessed. I can’t imagine there is much I haven’t seen, and it’s never a pretty sight to behold.
But these are all easy things to say. Living them out, I have found, is much more difficult.
This weekend I watched my son’s 8-year-old basketball team get completely destroyed — both on the scoreboard and in the department of physical play — and all being encouraged by an adult coach who was wound a bit too tight for youth sports.
If ever there was a time when my resolve to not be that parent would be tested, this was it.
Possession by possession I watched as the game slowly dragged on, one team clearly light years ahead of the other and making no apologies for keeping their foot on the gas.
But still, I sat and watched.
It was nearing the end of the game during a stoppage that my wife stepped near the sideline to help my son with his shoe laces. She quickly asked how he was doing and acknowledged that he’s probably frustrated since his team was trailing by nearly 50.
His response, however, is the entire reason I’m writing this.
“I think we can still catch them,” he told her. And he wasn’t joking.
It didn’t matter what the scoreboard said. Or the number of times he’d been slapped on the arm or bumped to the ground. It didn’t matter that there were parents yelling and teammates upset. He still believed they had a shot.
I could make a list a mile long of the reasons why all children should be involved in some type of team activity. It’s always little things like cooperation and coordination and physical development and learning how to take instruction from other adults that always jump to the top of the list. But it’s other less-evident teachings that will truly make a difference in the life of a young person.
Things like resiliency and mental toughness and enough blind optimism to convince us to push a little harder because we aren’t ready to surrender just yet, those are the kinds of things that separate us from our peers as adults.
Too often as parents we are compelled to step in to intervene on our child’s behalf when we think they’re being mistreated. But maybe if we stepped back and gave our young people a chance to handle adversity on their own — even in those moments where we think they’re too young — we’d be surprised by the results.
I know I certainly was.

Published: February 12, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180209956