Anyone who has followed my ramblings for any considerable amount of time has likely seen a dramatic shift from me telling “kids do the darndest things” stories to me being hyper-focused on youth sports and the role parents play in them. The reason for that is because my husband and I have three developing athletes in our household and I’ve racked up countless hours on the sidelines watching them learn how to play several sports.
I haven’t been the only one on the sidelines. Many of you have said you can relate to my observations, which proves my personal accounts reflect a much larger epidemic. Some of you have shared stories with me that I can’t believe are actually true due to the absurdity of them all.
What I’ve come to discover – the main reason I launched the GiveTheGameBack movement – is that we, as parents and promoters (I’d lump coaches and league administrators into this latter category), are all bound and determined to help position our kids on the best path for short- and long-term success.
We look for coaches we believe will teach our children how to play the game and enable them to maximize their potential. We hand over down payments to secure our “spot” on the team. We buy sports equipment and uniforms per league standards. We fundraise for tournaments and hotel costs. We shuttle them to practices and games all the while giving unsolicited advice on how to improve. We sit through pre-game warmups and day-long tournaments. We celebrate victories and agonize over defeats. We forfeit vacations for the greater good of the team. We live through our kids.
Re-reading what I just typed makes me understand why my friends who don’t have kids in organized sports think all of us who do should just make it official and form a community called Crazytown…population: too many.
I have learned first-hand over the last several years that adults tend to muddy up the youth sporting experience. Some parents fall into the “things we don’t know we don’t know” category when it comes to their involvement in their child’s athletic journey.
You don’t know you are making an ass out of yourself by yelling and foaming at the mouth like a ravenous dog (because you think it’s ok to argue a bad call with an official to prove a point).
You don’t know that your constant berating is not helping – but rather hurting – your kid and your kid’s teammates (because you think it’s a motivation tactic to get them to work harder and play better).
You don’t know that, by bad mouthing kids who are late bloomers and by excessively praising early developers, you are not helping either group in the long-run (because that’s the only way you can ensure a winning record year after year).
I had a customer recently contact me asking if he could purchase a GiveTheGameBack t-shirt for one of his acquaintances and have me mail it anonymously. I was more than happy to oblige.
After all, you don’t know what you don’t know and sometimes all it takes is for someone to give you the gift of perspective.
Written by Heidi Woodard
Extra commentary for those who like to read:
I was tempted to start things off with the old saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” This popular phrase might be a bit too ambiguous for some, since people tend to interpret it differently.
It could mean that we, as humans, have natural limitations in what we are able to mentally absorb: I don’t know how to speak Spanish because I haven’t taken classes since high school nor have I lived among people who speak the language fluently.
It could also mean there are gaps in our intellect that we aren’t even aware exist. At this point in my life, I am completely unaware of some of the knowledge that I am missing.
Let me further explain where I’m headed by offering up another saying – a quote that’s attributed to Donald Rumsfeld. The end of which observes that there are unknown unknowns in life, that is, those things we don’t know we don’t know.
I would imagine I share a goal with many of you: To reduce the amount of unknown unknowns in my life by expanding my mind and perspective, not only through study but also through personal experience.