“Guilt is Good! Hard Work Leads to Great Rewards.”
That was Jay, the dad in the TV comedy, Modern family, proudly holding his stepson Manny’s fencing trophy. The episode began with Manny competing in a fencing competition. Jay and Gloria practically “guilted” him into winning the competition. Parents have very different attitudes when it comes to their teens participation in sports, but I have no doubt that a lot of parents agree with Jay and Gloria.
“Guilt is good,” he said, but is it really? I pondered that thought. Why are parents so interested in getting their teens involved in sports? Is it so they can hold the crown with pride, as Jay did? Is it for the ever so important college scholarship? Are parents trying to live vicariously through their teens? Isn’t it better to find out what our teens are passionate about and what they are skilled in and encourage them to be their best, in sports and life in general? In reflection, I realized I had encouraged my children toward sports for my own selfish reasons.
Guilt may work for the short term, but does not prepare teens to succeed in life in the same way true passion, hard work and persistence do. There are very positive reasons to encourage sports participation including the health benefit of staying active.
Below are some other strategies to increase your teens’ odds of success.
Take the time to discover your teen’s skills and passion
Find out what your teen is skilled in and truly passionate about, and encourage them to be the best they can be. Gaby Douglas’ mom realized how talented her daughter was in gymnastics and guided her and gave her all the resources to become the first African American gold medal gymnast. It took hard work and persistence and even when Gaby felt like giving up, her inner strength and passion took her over the hump. When a teen is passionate about a sport, they will persist through all the challenges.
Recognize the level of your teen’s talent. Not all teens have the skill to become a Michael Phelps. Be their cheerleader anyway. Sometimes the value of sports is in the health benefit they get. I can’t overemphasize the value of activity in maintaining good health, especially with the obesity epidemic. Participating in sports also helps them learn the value of discipline, hard work and persistence. These characteristics will equip them to face life’s challenges as well. It’s also important to celebrate with your teens in their victory but remember to teach them the value of humility rather than gloating over their successes. Teach them how to play with good team spirit.
Teach team participation
John Maxwell says, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Help your child appreciate the value of working as a team. Teamwork is an invaluable asset from the school room to the board room. The most successful people in life know the value of team work. They know how to work with people who may be better than them, and lead them to produce great results for the team as a whole. Team building is such a great asset in life and can be acquired by sports participation.
Encourage and support your teen. Don’t Guilt them
Don’t push your child so much that they hate the sport they are in. I’ve seen teens come up with many excuses to skip sports, because their parents were just pushing them too much, sometimes even when the teens were injured. This has an adverse effect beyond the obvious permanent damage of playing injured. Forced sports participation just because mom or dad wants to see it does not bring out the best attitude in the teen.
Teach about dealing with Loss
Encourage your child when they face a painful loss. There will always be the next game. What lesson did they learn from this loss? Teach them that loss is not failure. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, had many more missed baskets than the baskets he actually made. The value is in having the strength to pick yourself up and prepare for the next game. Now that’s a great life lesson.
As teens participate in sports, I agree, that hard work leads to great results but it’s not necessary to guilt them into playing any sport. Take time to find out what your teen is passionate about. Encourage them to do what it takes to become the best they can be. Teach your teens to lose with dignity and to win with grace. Let them learn the invaluable lesson of discipline, persistence and team work and character development. These lessons will not only make them successful in sports, but life in general.