Recently, our two oldest boys started a bowling league. Of the two, one of them is incredibly athletic. He can do almost any sport and it comes naturally to him. The other isn’t very athletic, but he loves to play. They’ve played soccer, done running, and now they are trying bowling.
Back when we signed the boys up to play soccer, I was amazed to find that parents were incredibly invested in their kid’s performance. Some of them were even talking about scholarships. These kids are in the SECOND GRADE!!! They should be learning fundamentals and having fun!! I know that winning is fun, but it isn’t the most important aspect of sports. I have seen parents scream and berate their kid for missing a goal, not being aggressive enough, and not blocking a shot. I have seen the joy and fun leave a kid as fast as his or her shoulders can sag.
As I sat in the bowling alley, I listened to the parents sitting next to me “instruct” their daughter on how to bowl better after each frame. They told her over and over to get her head in the game. I could tell she was frustrated. I wanted to pull her aside and just say, “Hey, just have fun! No worries!” But that’s hard to say when the parents are obviously NOT concerned with fun. Some of the kids in the league have been bowling competitively for years. My kids have bowled like five times. Of course, they threw some gutter balls and they didn’t break 100. The first thing I said to them when they were finished was, “Did you have fun?” Not what was your score, how did you do, or what could you improve on. The next thing I said was: “I really enjoyed watching you bowl!”
A few years ago, I read an article written by a coach. I don’t remember the article or the author, but I do remember what struck me as so important. The author said that the first words you should say to your child when they walk off from the field, court, or lane is: I LOVE to watch you play! Those words have nothing to do with a kids performance. They could have the best or worst game, those words don’t indicate that. That phrase expresses the joy that your child brings to you by doing something that they enjoy. Time for correction, tips, and teaching can come later. These words put no additional pressure on a kid to succeed.
The world is a hard enough place and kids will be there on their own all too soon! Right now, they should be doing activities for the joy it brings. They are learning valuable lessons while having fun: cooperation, teamwork, encouragement, winning with grace, losing with grace, practice, endurance, perseverance, and many others. If activities become miserable and high pressure for kids, they won’t learn these lessons.
Let’s start a revolution! When your kids finish their activity, commit to saying, “I LOVE watching you _____________!” being the first phrase that you say to them!!
I love the winning, I can take the losing, but most of all I LOVE to play.” –Boris Becker