1. The champion sports parent chooses to see the big picture. Too many sports parents focus on the small picture. They zoom in to the point that today’s event or experience is all they can see. When today is all they’re capable of seeing, then they have a tendency to support their child or show him they love him the best they can – usually by working to defend him, protect him, and make him feel good. When today is all they see, it becomes easy to make judgments about who their child is and what he is or isn’t capable of. And when today is all they see, it makes the outcome of today’s contest the only thing that matters. Preparing for tomorrow isn’t part of their perspective.
But the champion sports parent sees the big picture. When you step back and see things differently, then you start to think and act differently, too. As a champion parent, the big picture allows you to see that many of the things your child needs in order to be his best can’t be taught or learned today. In fact, the qualities possessed by the champion athlete – qualities like passion, commitment, resilience, selflessness, and courage, for instance – can only be developed through a long, slow, daily commitment to the process of growth. Today is only one step in the process. When you see the reality of what it takes, then how you support your child and show him you love him changes, too.
Instead of protecting, as a champion sports parent you are more focused on preparing – on using whatever happens today to develop and cultivate those qualities required for success. You see that equipping your child for real success is more important than making him feel good. Seeing the big picture helps you recognize that judging who your athlete is or what he’s capable of is a lot less important than simply working today to help him get better. And when you see the big picture, the outcome of today’s contest isn’t the only thing that matters. Of course winning is important, and the champion sports parent wants to win. But more importantly than just focusing on whether or not your child won today, you are focused on whether or not your child was a winner today. Do you know the difference? Regardless of the final score, did he exhibit the passion, commitment, resilience, selflessness, and courage of a champion athlete? And if not, then how you can teach, equip, and prepare him to do it better for tomorrow? When you see the big picture, today isn’t all that matters. Who your child is today isn’t nearly as important as who you’re helping him become for tomorrow.
2. The champion sports parent chooses to act on intention, not on emotion. Sports are played in a competitive, emotional environment. When you add to that the huge investment of time, energy, and money that most parents have made in the experience, it’s not hard to see how a kids game can bring out our inner idiot. For any parent who just shows up and hopes for the best, it’s easy to get caught up on that roller coaster of emotion. You probably have good intentions – you really just want your child to succeed. Unfortunately, despite your intentions, acting on your emotion can lead you to make decisions that actually hinder your child’s success, and it may encourage you to think, do, or say things you’ll regret.
That why the champion sports parent is intentional, so he can avoid being emotional. As a champion sports parent, you’ve deliberately taken the time to make some important decisions about what really matters, about where you’ll be focusing your attention, and about who you’re committed to being today…before you ever get to the game. That way, you’ve helped ensure that when things do get competitive or emotional, you can avoid the roller coaster and the regret that can accompany it. As a champion sports parent, you are here on purpose, with a purpose. That way, no matter what happens today, you can be sure that your actions line up with your intentions. What you think, do, and say will be heartening your child’s success – not hindering it. They’ll be choices you won’t regret.
3. The champion sports parent chooses to limit comparison. When Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of all joy,” he probably wasn’t thinking specifically about you, the sports parent, but he could’ve been. Comparing your child to others on the athletic field is one of the easiest and one of the least productive things you can do. No matter who your child is or who those other kids are, comparing can be dangerous. If your kid’s better than those around him, comparing can give both of you a sense of entitlement or complacency. If your kid isn’t as good as those around him, comparing can paralyze your belief in and your commitment to the work it takes to get better. Comparison is the thief of joy, but it’s also the thief of growth and development and improvement, too.
The reality, again, is that improvement can only happen one small step at a time. The more time you spend comparing your child to those around him, the less time you spend actually working to help him get better. This process is long and slow enough even when you’re focused – let alone when you’re wasting time measuring your kid against everyone else. When you’re comparing, you’re delaying or missing out altogether on your child’s opportunity to improve.
As a champion sports parent, the only comparison you’re interested in making is between who your child is and who he’s capable of becoming. When you do that – when you create a clear vision for who your kid can become, then it’s easier to recognize and work to develop those areas where he’s weak. It clarifies the work that needs done so you can close the gap between who he currently is and that best version of himself.
4. The champion sports parent chooses to be empowered, not victimized. As a sports parent, there are so many variables that exist outside your control, especially as your child gets older and the stakes get higher. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the uncontrollable circumstances that make up the experience – the coach’s decisions, the referee’s calls. The choices made by your child’s teammates and his opponents. The crowd, the scheduling conflicts, the playing conditions. There’s a never-ending list of challenging circumstances.
All those variables can make it easy to adopt a victim mentality – the feeling that you have no control, and that you’re powerless over the circumstances surrounding you. The good news, I guess, about adopting this mentality is that there’s always someone or something for you to blame when things go wrong. There’s always plenty to complain about. The bad news, though, is that choosing this perspective makes the whole experience a lot less fun and a lot less valuable than it deserves to be.
For each of us, what we choose to emphasize is what our kids will learn to value. That means what we make important is what we train our kids to make important, too. So if the constant whining, blaming and complaining that come with a victim mentality are what we choose, then we make it easy for our kids to make the same choice as well. And the harsh reality is that the more victim your kid’s got in him, the less room there is for a champion to develop.
That’s why the champion sports parent chooses to be empowered instead of victimized. As an empowered parent, you don’t discount that all those circumstances – the coach, the referee, the other players, or anything else – might play a part in your child’s success or failure. They probably will. But despite all those things you can’t control, you’re focused instead on those things you know both you and your child can control. Your attitude. Your effort. Your response to those things that don’t go your way. The way you treat others. When you choose to emphasize what’s controllable, you help your child learn to value what’s controllable. The less victim he’s got in him, the more room there is for a champion to develop.
5. The champion sports parent chooses to enjoy the ride. As you probably know from experience, life as a sports parent is a wild ride filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, celebrations and frustrations. It can be tough, tiresome, and tedious. At some point, you’ve probably considered how you could be spending your time, your energy, or your money elsewhere. With all the other responsibilities you have in life, some days it’s not that hard for sports parenting to feel like a burden. It can easily become a stressful, joyless obligation among many others in your life.
As a champion sports parent, however, you’ve chosen to focus more on the opportunity and less on the obligation. You do so not because you never feels stressed, burdened, or inconvenienced. These days everyone feels that way. You do so instead because you recognize the deeper purpose that exists in this whole experience. Yes, this is a wild ride. But at the heart of it all, you see the opportunity your child has to learn the lessons and develop the qualities that can make him a champion for life. The game itself should be fun, no doubt; but you also need to see that your chance to teach, train, and equip your child for success today is a privilege, too – one that can change the course of his life forever. Don’t take it for granted. As a champion sports parent. you should see clearly that it’ll be done before you know it…and you’ll miss it when it’s gone.