like a gardener, weed and feed


For a gardener, this is a pretty exciting time of year. Warmer weather and a little spring rain have jump-started the growth process, but now it’s time for the gardener to get to work. He's got to get in there and get his hands dirty. If he just sits back, hopes for the best, and lets nature take its course, his garden may be headed for some trouble. If it's gonna reach its full potential, it’ll need some weeding and some feeding to get there. 

In many ways the same can be said for you, the sports parent. To help your young athlete grow and develop into his very best, you’ve got to get to work. You’ve got to get in there and get your hands dirty. If you just sit back, hope for the best, and let nature take its course, your child may be headed for some trouble. Like a gardener in springtime, the responsibility’s been shifted to you. If your kid’s gonna reach his full potential, he’ll need some weeding and some feeding to get there.

If your kid’s gonna reach his full potential, he’ll need some weeding and some feeding to get there.

In a garden, real growth requires some weeding. For a successful gardener, that means recognizing and then working to remove what he knows is harmful or detrimental to growth. That same kind of work is required of a successful sports parent. If you aren’t willing and able to recognize and then work to remove what you know is harmful to your child’s development – negative qualities like laziness, entitlement, selfishness, or fear, for instance – then those things can easily impede your child’s growth and choke out his potential. The more room you allow those “weeds” to take up, the less room there is for the qualities of a champion to flourish.

For you, the champion sports parent, teaching and correcting are examples of this “weeding” process. Creating and maintaining a high standard, and holding your child accountable to that standard are examples, too. They’re all ways you help weed out what you know can keep him from becoming his best. Like a successful gardener, this weeding is not a one-time event; instead it’s a daily process. The gardener committed to success knows that recognizing, identifying, and extracting weeds when they’re small helps to eliminate the problem at its root. Ignoring or overlooking these minor issues today, on the other hand, and choosing instead to wait and address them some other time, gives those harmful roots a chance to dig in and take hold. Then, trying to extract those bigger problems later – once they’ve had a chance to really establish themselves – makes for a more difficult, more painful, and more damaging experience for everyone.

Real growth also requires some feeding. Some plants may find a way to survive on their own, but a successful gardener knows that intentionally nourishing his garden will accelerate its growth and its performance. The same kind of work is required of a successful sports parent. Your child may find a way to survive on his own, but you want him to do more than just survive, don’t you? You want him to thrive! If so, you’ve got to be willing and able to recognize, and then work to feed what you know is critical to his success – like his passion, his effort, his toughness, or his selflessness, for instance. Those are the qualities that strengthen your child and enable his success, on the playing field and beyond. And the more you feed those positive qualities, the bigger and stronger they grow, and the deeper their roots run in his life and performance.

Encouraging, supporting, and cheering for your child are all examples of this “feeding” process. Your words of commendation, and your highlighting and celebrating his success or improvement in these important areas are examples, too. Other people may play a role in strengthening your child, but no one on earth can strengthen and support him like you. For the champion sports parent, like for the successful gardener, this feeding is not a one-time event; instead it’s a daily process. The gardener knows that withholding this fuel for growth or hoping his plants get what they need on their own or from some other source is foolish. If he’s serious about growing and developing the best garden possible, then the gardener accepts the responsibility for feeding them every day. If he ignores that responsibility for too long, what could’ve been strong and successful may end up weak and withered.

Like a successful gardener, as a champion sports parent you have a responsibility both to weed and to feed. That balance is critical. If all you do is weed – just constantly pick and pick and pick, even if you’re attempting to help – you may end up doing more harm than good. Despite your intentions, you could pick the very life out of the whole experience, even what your child needs to prosper. At the same time, if all you do is feed – just blindly support and encourage whatever is growing in the garden, no matter what, good or bad – then you’ll encourage everything to flourish, even some things that aren’t healthy or productive. Like a successful gardener, developing and cultivating a champion athlete requires your attention and your intention. If you do it right, I think you’ll be pleased with your work, proud of what you’ve grown…and satisfied with the fruit it bears.


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