FUELING VS. PUSHING YOUR KIDS TO SUCCEED IN SPORTS

FUELING VS PUSHING KIDS IN SPORTSOne time when I was in high school my friend’s car ran out of gas. Luckily we were just down the street from a gas station. We could see it in the distance about a quarter mile away, so we decided to push the car.

It was a hot and humid summer night and it was just the two of us. We struggled quite a bit to get the car rolling. But once we gained momentum, it got easier. Until we got to a small hill about halfway to the gas station. I wouldn’t even call it a hill. It was more like a hump.

We pushed and pushed to get over the hump, but it was no use. The momentum slowed and eventually the car came to a dead stop.

Actually, once it stopped, it felt like the car was pushing back because it began to roll backwards until my friend hopped in and put it into park.

We were both a sweaty mess and extremely frustrated. We both knew the car had potential to make it, but continuing to push was getting us nowhere.

PUSHING YOUR KID IN SPORTS IS LIKE PUSHING A CAR UP A HILL

I shared this story with you because I think it relates well to the result you get when you push your kid in youth sports. It may work at first, so you’ll keep pushing to get more out of him. But it won’t take long before he starts to make it an uphill battle. After a while you’ll feel like you’re not making any progress at all . . . and you’ll push harder. That’s when he’ll start pushing back and regressing.

Just like pushing a car that’s out of gas, pushing your kid in sports is not any fun. You’ll both become extremely frustrated with each other. And he’ll associate the sport with stress, frustration and the feeling that he’s constantly disappointing you.

If you’re not careful, your relationship will begin to erode.

FUELING INSTEAD OF PUSHING

My friend and I could have saved a lot of effort, energy, frustration and sweat if we would have just stopped to fuel up his car a few miles earlier. When you compare the amount of effort it takes to push a car vs. fuel it and letting it power itself, it’s not even close. You’d take fuel and power every time. Right?

When you fuel your car, it goes on its own without much effort from you. Your only job is to guide it in the right direction, then enjoy the ride.

Raising a youth athlete isn’t much different. Your main goals as a sports parent should be to simply fuel your child’s passion for sports and give him the best opportunities to succeed.

HOW TO FUEL YOUR KID IN SPORTS

Fueling your kid’s desire and passion for sports isn’t as simple as stopping at a gas station and filling up. But’s it’s also not as difficult as some folks make it out to be. I’m a simple guy, so I like to keep things simple.

Here are some simple ways to fuel your kids to succeed in sports:

  • Play with them without always turning into coach dad. When your kid wants to play a sport with you, just play. Resist the urge to correct them or stop the game to work on a skill every time.
  • Praise their effort, not the result. After a game, never focus on the final score or how well you thought your kid played. Instead, praise the two things she can always control – her hustle and her effort (if she gave 100%).
  • Avoid critizism. Nothing will empty a kid’s tank like being criticized after a game or practice.
  • Don’t talk about the game unless they bring it up. If your kid wants to talk about his game, he’ll bring it up. If he doesn’t want to talk about it, then leave it be.
  • Ask them if they want to work on anything together. Whenever you have free time ask him if there’s anything he wants to work on before his next game. If he wants to, then by all means help him work on something. If he doesn’t, don’t push him or show disappointment.
  • Take them to pro or college games. Not many things fuel and fire up youth athletes like going to watch pro or college players play the same game as them. When they see how skilled people can be at a sport, it can easily fuel their desire to improve.

It’s not always easy to avoid pushing your kid to be the best athlete they can be. But to put it simply, you can’t want it more than them.

Fueling your kids’ desire to play sports and work hard at improving will make sports much more enjoyable for you both.

Thanks for reading.

Kevin

GRACE: The Best Gift A Sports Parent Can Give

GRACE

It was extra innings in the championship game of a tournament. There were two outs and a runner on third base. My son Brayden stood at the plate, in his left-handed stance. The pitcher wound up, and came home with the pitch.

Brayden watched strike three sail right in front of his chest, down the middle of the plate.

My first thoughts were, “C’mon Bray. You’ve got to swing if it’s close! How did he just watch that pitch go by?”

My next thought was, “Maybe it was high. Did the ump blow that call?”

It would have been easy to get worked up about the situation. I could’ve chosen to be upset at Brayden for not swinging. I could have chosen to be angry with the umpire for messing up the call.

I chose neither option.

Instead, I chose grace. 

And I immediately felt all of the tension from the situation leave my body.

I think we forget that WE are in control of how we react to adversity. We get to choose our emotional state.

My definition of grace is basically being able to say, “Oh well” and instantly letting something go. Grace is being accepting of the mistakes and flaws of other people. It’s understanding that no one is perfect. Grace always assumes that someone is doing the best that she can.

When I give grace, I feel better about myself too. I feel like a better person and I bet you will too.

Grace is such a beautiful, calming, non-judgmental thing. Especially in the competitive, sometimes stressful and difficult world of sports. When you give grace, you’ll be happier and so will everyone else around you.

Why Grace Is The Greatest Gift A Sports Parent Can Give.

It’s amazing how making this one decision will change so many aspects of your life. The ripple effect of Grace is unreal.

Let’s take a look at some different ways giving grace will make your life as a sports parent easier.

  • You won’t get upset, disappointed or frustrated when you kid doesn’t perform the way you believe he can.
  • You won’t get annoyed when the other kids on the team make bad plays.
  • You won’t scream and shout at the refs and umps when you think they made a bad call.
  • You won’t get angry at your kid’s coach when he makes a move you disagree with.

Read back over those four bullet points and think about how giving grace in each of those areas can dramatically change your experience with youth sports.

Pretty powerful, wouldn’t you say?

Extend Grace Now So They Come To You Later

There’s another secret reason why I believe that grace is so important in sports parenting. When your kid has a major fail in a big game, or he watches strike three go by with the winning run on third, he’s going to feel awful.

Do you remember what it felt like to screw up in sports? Remember wanting to go run and hide? But you can’t. You have to stay out there on display for everyone. That’s what our kids go through when they mess up too.

Do you think he wants to run over after the game to a mom or dad who is going to rip into him about his mistake? That’s like ripping the scab off of his scrapped elbow. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to place doubt in his mind about how much you believe in him and value him.

If you tear him apart and make him feel worse after small moments like letting in a soft goal, or missing an open layup, do you honestly think that he’ll come to you when he’s dealing with a much bigger issue later in life?

Heck no. If you didn’t extend him grace over an error he made in fourth grade baseball, why would you extend it when he tells you about something that’s been bothering him in junior high?

Instead of telling you, he’ll hold in whatever’s bothering him because he thinks you’ll just judge him and make him feel worse.

Grace Builds Trust

Look, I know giving grace isn’t the easiest thing to do. It may even be very difficult depending upon how critical you currently are with your kids. But it’s worth it. Every time you extend grace to your kids, it builds an emotional layer of trust.

When your kids know that you’ve got their back, no matter how many mistakes they make, that forms a rock-solid, trusting relationship. It lets them know that even though they live in a world that’s constantly judging and criticizing them, they can always count on you for support.

Give Yourself Grace

If you’re reading this and feeling guilty of being a little tough on your kid, coaches or officials, please know that you deserve grace too. I didn’t write this to make you feel bad about what you’ve done in the past.

I wrote this to help you feel great about what you can start doing in the future.

-Kevin

Chill Out, Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

This is a guest post from my friend Max Wolter. Max covers sports at TheRenaissanceFan.com. The goal of The Renaissance fan is to explore the relationship between fans and the sports, movies, and culture they follow. 


little-league3Another Little League season will be starting up soon for the 2 million plus kids across America that are lucky enough to participate in one of the best parts of childhood. We at The Renaissance Fan love Little League and the opportunity it provides for kids to have fun, learn about teamwork, and experience a wonderful sport. What we do not love are adults, either coaches or parents, who take youth games far too seriously. For those overly intense coaches and parents of Little Leaguers, allow us to be the ones to burst your bubble: Your kid is not going pro in baseball because of what happens today. In fact, they are most likely never going pro at all. Let us show you why, and hopefully bring you back to reality where you can simply enjoy these moments in your child’s life.

About 1 in 4 Little Leaguers play high school ball

As stated earlier, there are about 2 million American kids playing Little League this year. If your kid is one of them, then congratulations, you’ve made a great parenting decision. But understand that there are a lot of obstacles and some long odds between where your kid is now and playing shortstop for the Yankees. The next stop in their career might be high school ball. The jump from Little League to high school is the easiest to make. About 1 in 4 Little Leaguers get onto a high school roster. But remember, a lot of kids that play Little League have no interest in playing at a higher level. So if your kid has the desire to play in high school their odds are likely a little better than 1 in 4, particularly if they attend a small high school with less competitive try outs (if there are try outs at all).

About 1 in 15 high schoolers  play college ball

The first major hurdle in advancing their baseball career is getting on a college team. About 1 in 15 high school players have the opportunity to play in college. That might sound like pretty decent odds, and if your kid is a standout high school player this may seem encouraging. However, there is a huge range in the quality of different college programs, from the elite major league recruiting schools like North Carolina or Florida State, down to Division 3 schools that MLB scouts have never even heard of. As you would imagine, the odds of getting into a really good college program are a lot worse than 1 in 15.

8.6% of all college players get drafted

Once in college your kid will be competing against the best of the best for a very limited number of spots at the next level. Only 8.6% of all college players get drafted into the MLB. So, in college, your kid will need to be better than 10 out of 11 other college players who also made it that far because they were really good, to get drafted into the MLB.

Just getting drafted by the MLB may seem like it’s mission accomplished for some, but being a minor leaguer is a far different experience than going to “The Show”. Life as a minor league player is hard and far from glamorous. But of course once your kid has made it to this level the odds of making the last leap to the active roster of an MLB team are not terrible, but there are still no guarantees. About 1 in 3 minor leaguers “get their cup of coffee” on a major league team. Some of those stick and become the next Derek Jeter, many sink back down into the minors, never to see the “Bigs” again.

So now let’s rewind all this and look at the odds of that one Little League kid winding up getting his name called as he steps up to bat in Yankee stadium. The odds of that are, very conservatively, 1 in 2,667. Which may not sound too bad, but let’s give it some perspective. Say there are 100 kids in your child’s particular Little League. Is your kid realistically going to be the best out of all of them?

little-leagueNow throw in the kids from the leagues in 25 other towns. Still the best? Because that’s the realistic depiction of their odds. Oh, and did we forget to mention that all the odds shown up to this point only factor in Americans? About 1 in 4 MLB players are not American.  So your kid will also be competing against kids from the Dominican Republic, Korea, Venezuela, etc… they are nuts about baseball in many of these places (and they play year round).

So by now you get the point. Getting paid to play professional baseball is a really tough job to get. But not impossible. Obviously every pro player is somebody’s kid, so a tiny minority of parents have experienced the joy of seeing their child become a professional athlete, and that could be you too.

But regardless of how good your kid is (or you think they are) seeing them reach the pinnacle of baseball is still the super long-shot scenario. But there’s good news here. Do you know what is not a long shot, and is in fact, almost guaranteed? Your kid’s chance to have a great time playing the game of baseball right now.

So parents and coaches everywhere, don’t worry about the future careers of Little Leaguers, don’t even worry about if they’ll play in high school. Make it fun now. Then, the kids that truly have the talent to rise to the top and make it to the major leagues someday will have a deeper appreciation for the game of baseball. Which is, after all, still a game.

How To Help Your Child Deal With Haters

Leave The Haters Behind

Photo courtesy of Kent Houston.

It doesn’t matter what your child does in life. He’s going to experience other people who try to keep him down. It’s human nature.

“Haters gonna hate.” Right? But it’s our job to make sure the haters don’t keep our kids down. That’s often easier said than done when you’re dealing with the mind and feelings of a child. Heck, I’m a grown-ass man and haters still get to me from time to time.

I don’t know what it is, but it seems like it’s so easy to dismiss positive comments and compliments. Yet when we receive one slightly negative piece of feedback from someone, THAT is what sticks with us.

We can do our kids a huge favor by teaching them how to move forward and leave haters behind.

Haters can come in a few different forms. 

  • The insecure friend hater.
    This hater isn’t always easy for kids to identify. He’s not mean to them. Actually, he’s one of their friends. But for some reason, he doesn’t like his friends to do things that he’s not good at himself. So, if your child is really into baseball and his friend isn’t, his friend will try to talk him out of playing baseball with other friends in the neighborhood.
    He’ll say stuff like, “Come on, baseball is lame. Let’s go play Minecraft on my Xbox instead.”The insecure friend hater can seem innocent enough. He usually doesn’t treat your child poorly or anything. But, I feel that if your child is easily swayed by kids like this, then that throws up a huge warning flag for when he gets older.It’s one thing for your child to allow a friend to easily talk him into not playing baseball, even though he really wants to play. But fast forward a few years to when your child is older. He’s hanging out with a friend who is mixed up with the wrong crowd. If your child is used to easily giving in to his friend’s requests, what will happen when a friend says, “C’mon man, just try it. Heroine will make you feel amazing.” Will your child try it, even though he really doesn’t want to?
  • The threatened hater.
    This hater is the easiest to identify. It’s usually the most verbal and sometimes abusive kind. This hater is the kid who feels threatened by your child. When kids like this feel threatened, they treat the kids whom they feel threatened by like crap.Haters like this will often appear if your child joins a new team. Say that your child joins a new soccer team and plays a good left wing. The current left winger on the team may feel threatened by him. If he’s a hater, he won’t welcome your child to the team. Instead he’ll make remarks to him at practices and games. He’ll criticize him and tell him he sucks. He’ll try to talk him into playing a different position. He’ll talk about him behind his back to other teammates and try to get them to be haters as well. All because the hater doesn’t want to lose his spot or make a switch to a new position himself. Haters are crappy teammates.
  • The closed-minded hater.
    This hater fears change. He fears anything out of his comfort zone and will criticize your child for participating in activities that he doesn’t like. This hater isn’t necessarily a bad kid. He just doesn’t think big and will always try to convince your child that he shouldn’t try different things.I sincerely believe that growth never comes from comfort. So I feel that it’s important to encourage our kids to feel comfortable being uncomfortable. If that makes any sense.When your kid is 26 years old, successful and starting a family of his own, the close minded hater will be the guy living in his parents basement…where he’s comfortable.
  • The control-freak hater.
    This hater tries to be the alpha of the group. Don’t confuse him for a leader though. There’s a big difference. Leaders are encouraging of others and receptive to their input. The control freak hater has a “my way or the highway” mentality. These kids are often the ones who insist upon playing at their house or in their yard. This way they have more control over what they play and the rules of the games.During pickup games, if the control freak hater can’t set the teams up the way he wants, he’ll often be the kid that shouts, “These teams are unfair! I quit!” and storm off.

Did you recognize any of those haters? Were you picturing any kids currently in your child’s life?

How Can You Help Your Child Deal With Haters?

OK, now that we’ve identified a few of the main haters your child may encounter, we need to help him brush those haters off.

A Hater’s Biggest Issue Is With Himself, NOT With Your Child  

It may be tough for kids to grasp this, but try to help him realize that haters really have more of an issue with themselves than with the people or things that they hate on. Explain to your child that haters lack self esteem. Haters don’t like to see others succeed. Haters feel threatened easily. Haters don’t embrace change. Haters don’t appreciate individuality or independence.

Haters are good for one thing. They’re great for teaching kids how NOT to behave and treat others. When your child is in that moment of feeling hurt by a hater, take that opportunity to make him realize how he feels. Then explain to him why he shouldn’t treat other people how he was just treated. That lesson has a lot more impact while your child is still in the moment.

If He Has Haters, He’s Doing Something Right

Help your child realize that having haters is a good thing. If he has a hater, that means he’s trying new things, experiencing success at something, doing what he believes in, has something someone else wants, etc… Tell your child that whenever he notices a hater, he should just keep doing what he’s doing.

Use Hate To Motivate

Haters can be great forms of motivation if you can get your child to think of them in the right context. Once you help your child realize the previous two tips, get him to use a hater as fuel.

What do haters hate more than anything? When someone or something they’re hating on has success. There’s no better way to shut up a hater than to out play him, out hustle him or simply stand up to him and prove him wrong. Instead of allowing a hater to get your child down, help him use the hate as motivation to succeed and build his own confidence.

Remind your child that haters are mentally weak. They lack self confidence, so if they’re stood up to or proven wrong, they’ll usually back down pretty easily.

Confidence Is The Ultimate Hater Eliminator

If I could only give my boys one character trait, it would be confidence. Confidence is the key to achieving success in all aspects of  life; Sports, relationships, business – it doesn’t matter.

Your child can have all the haters in the world, but if he has self confidence they’ll never keep him down. Confidence trumps all.

Does Your Child Have Any Haters? 

Let me know if your child has to deal with any haters. How have you helped him handle different situations? And as always, if you have anything to add to my list, please do!

Thanks for reading,

-Kevin

Let Young Athletes Enjoy Their Independence

Photos courtesy of Randy Harris, Julie Penn & Keith Boileau.

Photos courtesy of Randy Harris, Julie Penn & Keith Boileau.

Today is a day when we Americans celebrate our independence. Yet on sports fields, courts and rinks across America, children remain imprisoned.

They’re prisoners to lofty expectations of parents and coaches. They’re forced to play sports they don’t want to play. They’re forced to practice when they’d rather be home playing with friends.

They play what are supposed to be fun games in fear. Fear that they may screw up. Fear that they’ll get lectured during their car ride home. Fear of disappointing their parents. Fear of getting pulled out of the game by their coach. Fear that the ref or ump will make a bad call and their parents will yell and scream about it.

Any athlete will tell you that when you play scared, you’re going to fail.

When these kids fail, they hear about it. A lot.

When they hear about it, they get stressed out. When kids get stressed out, sports quickly stop being fun. And that’s when burnout happens. A lot.

73 percent of kids drop out of organized sports by the time they are 13, according to The National Alliance for Youth Sports.

I’m not saying that every kid who quits is burnt out. Some kids find other interests they want to pursue. And some discover that the only reason they’ve been playing sports is because their parents want them to.

What are the best ways to let young athletes enjoy their independence?

Read the rest over at CoachUp.com.

Father’s Day? Feels More Like Thanksgiving.

Fathers Day Sports DadIt’s Father’s Day weekend. But to tell you the truth, it feels more like Thanksgiving to me. This year will mark my 10th Father’s Day. I can’t believe it.

“They Grow Up So Fast.” No, Really…They Do!

“They grow up so fast,” is possibly the most overused cliché in the history of parental advice. I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. Every new parent hears that phrase multiple times during the first few years of their parental journey.

But you know what? It’s so damn true. And you know what else? Lately I’ve found myself saying that to new parents.

They grow up so damn fast that in the blink of an eye, I’ve turned into the veteran parent spouting these words of wisdom. I don’t know why I or anyone else bothers to say it though. I try to be conscious of what that phrase means. I try to grasp how quickly time is flying by. I try to capture as many moments as I can. I try to appreciate the here and now without looking too far ahead. But it doesn’t do any good. These three boys of mine are still growing up at warp speed.

The only thing I can do is be thankful that I get the opportunity to be a Dad. And not just any Dad, but a Sports Dad. That’s why every Father’s Day is more like Thanksgiving to me. Father’s Day causes me to reflect on all the awesome moments that sports have allowed me to witness.

Sports Dads Have A Lot To Be Thankful For.

Think about all the cool events we, as Sports Dads, get to experience. The most monumental parental moments are when we get to witness the “firsts.” Your child’s first feeding, first time to roll over, first word, first steps. Notice how all those important firsts take place within the first year or so of his life?

Once your kiddo starts walking and talking, those big, monumental firsts seem to be fewer and farther between…until he begins to play sports!

Monumental Firsts In Youth Sports.

Think about all of the firsts we get to witness from our kids playing sports. A few off the top of my head are:

  • First hit off a tee (most likely a Little Tikes t-ball set)
  • First game of catch
  • First kick of a soccer ball
  • First basket scored
  • First toss of a football
  • First shot of a hockey puck
  • First hack with a golf club
  • First game
  • First hit
  • First goal
  • First touchdown
  • First head ball
  • First basket
  • First catch of pop fly in a game
  • First time to field a grounder, make a good throw to 1st base and record an out
  • First time being a goalie
  • First save as a goalie
  • First time on the ice
  • First assist
  • First strikeout as a pitcher
  • First home run

I could go on for hours. I’m sure you have some running through your mind right now, too.

The Most Important Thing That Sports Give Dads.

Sports also provide us with the most precious commodity of all…Time with our kids.

Sports allow us to be a part of our kids’ lives in a special way. They provide a shared interest. They give us a way to connect and make memories together. Not many things can bring us together with our kids the way that sports can.

I encourage you to spend your Father’s Day weekend giving your kids quality time playing sports with them. Emphasize the fun and togetherness instead of turning it into a coaching clinic.

If your kids will be playing in games all weekend, forget about their performance on the field. Instead focus on how far they’ve come since their very first game. Because before you know it, they’ll be grown up and you’ll be witnessing their last.

Marvel at the awesome kid you helped to create.

Appreciate what you have as a Sports Dad. You’ll be thankful for it.

Share Photos of What You’re Thankful For.

Share your Father’s Day Sports Dad moments from this weekend on Sports Dad Hub’s Facebook page. Show the SDH community what and who you’re thankful for.

Happy Father’s Day!

-Kevin