be afraid...be very afraid
Sometimes, fear can be a great motivator. It can give us a sense of urgency we didn’t have before. It can muster in us reserves of energy we might not have known existed. Fear can drive us today to do the important work it takes to maintain a vision we’ve created for our future. Need proof of what a little fear can do? Imagine you’re the guy kayaking in the picture below. Yes, fear can be a great motivator.
Today, sports parent, I want to scare you. Not “curl up in a ball” or “hide under the bed” kind of scare you. I’m talking about “find a sense of urgency” scare you. “Muster up some new reserves of energy” and “drive you to do the important work” scare you. If we’re really serious about raising champion athletes and men, then it’s good to be a little afraid.
Afraid of what, you ask? When it comes to parenting a young athlete, what is there to fear? Here are three fears that should motivate each of us to action every day:
Fear #1: Be afraid that time is flying, that it will be gone in no time, and that you’re not getting it back. Take a minute to stop and consider how quickly time has passed. Of course, for all of us, the days can be long, but the years move quickly, don’t they? Really, wasn’t it just yesterday that you were holding your boy in your arms or hoisting him up on your shoulders? Weren’t you just taking him out to the backyard to teach him how to throw, or shoot, or kick a ball? Like a scroll of photos, you can probably think through all the sports seasons, all the uniforms, all the teams that have come and gone in his life already. No matter his age, it’s probably not hard for you to utter the words… “he’s already __ years old” or “it’s like he was __ years old just yesterday.” And it’s not slowing down. As he gets older, time only moves faster. Ask someone who’s recently sent a child off to college or is preparing to do it soon how quickly it goes. He will be done playing sports, out from under your roof, and stepping into manhood on his own in no time.
It’s a legitimate fear to have…that we’re taking this time for granted, that it’s going to go by too fast, and that we’ll miss these days when they’re gone. So how can that fear motivate us? By giving us a sense of urgency – a renewed commitment to taking full advantage of the opportunities we have in front of us. Don’t take today for granted. Make it count. Someday soon it’ll be over. Let’s make sure when someday arrives, we know we were fully present and committed to today.
Fear #2: Be afraid that your son will fail to reach his full potential, and you’re the reason why. As a sports parent, I know…you’re doing a lot. You’re paying all that money for registration, equipment, training, and more. You’re driving him from here to there and back again. You’re devoting your evenings, after long days at work, to supporting him. You’re giving up entire weekends of your time to be his biggest fan. Yes, you’re doing a lot.
But, I ask you to consider, are you doing the work that really matters? Do you see what’s really important to developing a champion athlete and man? You see, there are certain qualities that a champion possesses…
-He loves the game.
-He gives his best.
-He overcomes adversity.
-He seeks improvement.
-He gets coached.
-He’s a great teammate.
-He takes risks.
-He does it all with a positive attitude.
These qualities are skills and abilities – they’re actually more like talents possessed by a champion. They are the separators. They create the margin between who your son is and who he can become. Take any one of them and consider your son, the athlete, with that skill or without it. Regardless of his physical ability level, which one is closer to reaching his full potential: your son who loves the game, or your son who doesn’t? Your son who can overcome adversity, or your son who can’t? Your son who’s willing to go for it, or your son who’s not? Choose any one from the list, and the answer is the same.
These qualities also create the margin between your son and those he’ll be competing with and against for life. Let’s say two kids have similar athletic ability levels, but there’s only one spot left on the team. Or they play the same position, and coach has to decide who gets the starting spot. Who do you think has an advantage? The player who’s been trained to give his best, or the one who hasn’t? The one who can get coached, or the one who can’t? The one who’s a great teammate, or the one who’s not? Compare any of the qualities from that list, and the answer is the same. These abilities will become the separators for your son…if he has them.
See, these talents don’t just magically appear in some boys and not in others. They are intentionally taught. Emphasized. Developed. Cultivated. And despite all you’re doing for your boy – despite the money, time, and energy spent – if you aren’t intentionally making these skills and abilities an emphasis of his athletic experience – maybe the emphasis of his experience, regardless of how much physical ability he may have – then you’re preparing him to fail. He’ll fail to reach his full potential as an athlete, and someday, competing with or against other athletes for the same goals, he’ll fail there, too. If that happens, in the biggest moments of his life, it won’t be about all he got from you that counts; it’ll be about what he didn’t. And that’s a legitimate fear.
So how can that fear motivate us? It should clarify for us what’s really important. There will be plenty of influences in your sports parent experience, telling you what you should value and what you should emphasize. Some of those influences will have your son’s best interest at heart. Some will not. Unless you’re intentional about your decisions, you’ll likely do what too many sports parents do: invest all the time, all the money, and all the energy into an experience that reaps only a fraction of the benefit it should. So whether he’s the star of the team or the last guy on the bench, determine for yourself what really matters, so you don’ t look back and realize you did it wrong.
Fear #3: Be afraid of what your son will someday come to realize a dad can (and should) provide. If you’ve done it right, of course, then this isn’t something to be scared of – it’s something to look forward to. If you’re intentional about developing in your son the talents of a champion – regardless of his athletic ability – then you’ll be helping him reach his full potential on the playing field and you’ll be preparing him for success beyond it. It will be those qualities you’ve cultivated on purpose – his passion, his effort, his toughness, his desire to improve, his willingness to work with and uplift others, his willingness to go for it, his positive attitude – those will be the reason why he is who he is.
If you’ve done it right, you’ll be excited for him to realize someday all that you’ve given him. Excited for him to realize that each of those qualities have been intentionally taught and developed by a dad who saw what really mattered, and who cared enough to do the important work. Someday, when he is who he is, he’ll have you to thank for it.
Of course, if you do it wrong, then you’ve got a reason to be scared. If you don’t make developing these qualities a priority in the life of your son, then he’ll miss out on at least some of what’s out there for him. Sure, his physical ability may take him a long way. But he’ll never fly as high as he’s capable. He won’t be equipped to get there.
Most frighteningly for you, someday he’ll come to some disheartening conclusions about who he is, and why. He’ll likely realize that the qualities of a champion athlete and man can in fact be taught and developed, and that a dad is the one who should do that teaching and developing. Your son will probably realize that his dad gave him a lot of stuff, but he didn’t give him what he really needed. He never developed the talents of a champion – the passion, the effort, the toughness, the desire to improve, the willingness to work with and uplift others, the willingness to go for it, the positive attitude. If you do it wrong, then someday, unfortunately, when he is who he is, he’ll have you to thank for it. And that thought, for any of us, should be a little frightening.