If you’re a parent working to navigate this challenging journey today, I want to encourage you to step back and see the big picture. This is the most effective way to manage the maze. Instead of blindly making a decision and then just hoping for the best, changing your perspective offers a smarter approach. The big picture requires that you see more than just where your child is today; you’ve got to see where you want him or her to end up, too.
What is it exactly that you want this experience to provide for them, and who it is exactly that you want them to be when they arrive at the end of this sports journey? If you’re a coach, these are worthwhile questions for you to be asking, too. What qualities is it that you want those playing for you to develop? And who is it that you want your players to be at the end of their time with you, when they leave your team or program for good? Answering these long-term questions provides clarity for some of the short-term choices you’re making today.
When you see the big picture, it helps you rise above the mess – above the maze, above the dead ends, above the stress. When you know what you want your child to look like at the end of the journey, it clarifies the path you’re required to take in order to get there. From above, it’s easy to see that some choices – even ones that might look good in the moment – actually lead your child farther away from his or her best, not closer to it. A maze is so much easier to complete when you can see it all from a distance, including both where you started and where you want to end up. Instead of making a decision – about where to play, or with whom, or at what level, or for how long – and then blindly hoping for the best, now you can see the reality of where it’s taking you and your child.
The same method helps clarify your smaller, daily decisions, too. Who knows what it is your child will experience as an athlete today. It may be good, bad, or ugly. More importantly, what is it that they’ll need from you in order to make the most of today’s experience? Do they need to be supported and encouraged, or do they need to be challenged? Is what’s best for them today a pat on the back or a dose of accountability? Those choices are also a part of the responsibility you bear, and each one you make helps move your child either closer to their full potential or farther from it. Do your words and actions today line up with the goals you have for your child’s tomorrow? Stepping back and seeing the big picture before you speak or act is the most effective way to know for sure.
Managing the maze of youth sports is not easy work, especially if you’re trying to do it one singular, solitary choice at a time. Intentionally choosing a different perspective helps ensure that the decisions you make today align with the vision you have for your child’s tomorrow. Most importantly, it helps you avoid the dead ends in which so many young athletes and their parents find themselves, and instead helps you make it to your desired destination: your child’s champion self.