Before my YMCA days I was a full-time swim coach. As coach, I worked with some of the nation’s most talented swimmers. Those youth succeeded at differing levels for many various reasons. Sometimes it was pure talent, others true grit, and still others the combination of both.
Is your child the next Hussein Bolt, Michael Phelps or John Wall? It is easy to watch collegiate and professional athletes and dream about your child making it to the big leagues. And for some parents, like the parents of Brad Wilkerson or the Hayden brothers, this dream became a reality, which is great. But most fall short of that level of success.
So what’s the point? Is winning the only thing?
Vicki Quisenberry, parent of four kids participating in both swimming and cross country says, “Of course not. It’s about becoming a balanced person and learning how to graciously win and graciously lose. It’s about balance, in academics, church and athletics. It’s about learning how to be part of team and being responsible to that team.”
There will be many choices in raising your kids. Understanding that concept of balance is important, especially with younger athletes. If they are destined to be the next phenom, they will find their way, usually without an overzealous parent or coach. For the rest of the pack, they will have a leg up on the competition when it comes to living life in the adult world.
Parents have a huge impact on their kids’ development. However, I learned an important lesson years ago while working with a parent volunteer. She and I were putting together a marketing piece for our swim team. It needed to set us apart from the other teams in the area.
After pouring all of my marketing genius into the brochure, she asked a very simple question, “What is the most important thing for a parent to know?”
“Price,” I responded, “It’s on the front inside panel.”
“No that’s not it,” she said politely.
I tried again with location.
“Team size, accomplishments, philosophy?”
“No, no, no.”
Finally she told me the answer, “The coach.”
And she was right.
Parents need to know who will be impacting their kids outside of the home. In some sports a coach may work with the same group of athletes for five or more years. By simple virtue of that time investment, they will have more impact than even a teacher or youth minister at church.
Finding a coach that strives to win, but understands the bigger issues of character development through sports participation, is a true find. If the only thing that ever matters is the final score of the game, it will be easy to miss the real finish line years later.
Today, Brendon Maxwell, a child of the Generation Y era, is co-owner of Utopian Coffee Company (www.utopiancoffee.com) in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has also started a non-profit initiative called Third World Cup (www.thirdworldcup.org), which uses soccer as a global uniting language, bringing opportunity to those who have little.
“Growing up as an athlete, specifically within swimming, I was challenged, both mentally and physically, beyond what I ever imagined,” Maxwell said. “Having been pushed outside of my limits – beyond what I thought was possible lead to my growth, within athletics and outside of them. Whether it was at school, my workplace or traveling overseas, the confidence that was built and fostered through sports transcended and gave me victories and successes in these other arenas.”
Owensboro has it’s share of athletic traditions and successes. None perhaps more recognized than Tony Rowe’s 35-year impact with the Daviess County High School cross country and track programs. With 10 state championships, seven individual cross country champions and numerous track champions, his insights shared in his book, Trails, Trials & Triumphs: The Daviess County Running Tradition, addresses the need for success beyond the playing field.
Rowe writes, “In today’s society, many of the traditional responsibilities that were once a part of the typical American family are gone. Very few kids throw hay, work in tobacco, or have chores where so many character qualities became inherent. While not all aspects of sports are positive, within the proper balance, athletics can serve a vital role in the successful passage over the bridge from adolescence into adulthood. It’s easy for us to put negative labels on young people but the truth is that most are ‘successes looking for a place to happen!’ When I look back on my own high school and college days, I am so thankful for the struggles and accomplishments that came through the daily grind of athletics…and I am sure I am not alone in that sentiment.”
Whether your child scores the winning goal, out runs that kid from across state or wins that college scholarship, sports has something to teach each child about life, character and becoming a great adult.
But that’s just what one ordinary dad thinks.
By Dean Ehrenheim. Dean Ehrenheim with his wife Jeanette, is raising four great kids. He regularly writes about his experiences in parenting, coaching and wellness. His email is [email protected]