28 april 2022

Towards the end of the summer sporting season, I was fortunate enough to watch one of our junior cricket teams in action during a mid-week match. It was a tightly contested match, and in the end went down to the last ball. At the conclusion of the game there was great jubilation from the victors, and a tangible sense of despair from those that ended second on the day. However, once the initial celebrations (and morbid reality of a loss) had died down, the two teams lined up (clad in their blazers), and duly shook hands and congratulated (or commiserated) each other. In the end, the victors and losers left the field together, and I doubt very much whether the outcome was spoken about much on the journey home. Rather, I would imagine that experiences on the field, and the ups and downs of a great contest were the topic of conversation. All in all – a great advertisement for why our children play sport. And as I look back on the cricket match referred to above, I begin to ponder on that time of year when the winter sports season is starting to kick into full gear, and chilly winter early Saturday mornings on the side of the astro and field will soon become a reality. The start of the winter season can often be a bit stressful for all concerned, as players attend trials, and teams begin to be selected. And as much as we want our children to make the best team possible, the unavoidable fact is that often they don’t. And sometimes they are incredibly disappointed, and feel quite dejected when they don’t make the team that they were hoping to make. How we, as parents help them to navigate this emotional and complex path is critical to their development as a human being. The perspective that we offer in terms of their disappointment will go a long way in helping them to become a wellbalanced person. In a similar light, how we guide them when they make their desired team is also so important to the development of their character. Their response to success says so much about who they are as people, and true humility is a much sought after trait. Our response to their success plays a big role in how they learn to handle success. As parents, we have to step back and remove our own ambitions from the table. Sometimes we inadvertently apply pressure on our kids to make a certain team. There are so many reasons for this. Perhaps deep down we harbor disappointments from bygone sporting years, or maybe our past accomplishments on the sports field have lead us to believe that the sporting team made at junior school level determines one’s success in life. Unfortunately, there are times when some may believe that the team that our children make will have a direct bearing on our social status. Whatever our motives, pure or somewhat misguided, the bottom line is that sport presents our children with a golden opportunity to learn so many life lessons. To discover so much about themselves, the world and each other. And to learn that how we respond to setbacks says so much more about our character. And in order for our children to learn these valuable lessons, we as parents have to step up to the plate, and remove our own agendas and ensure that we guide our children through the challenging times of making a team, and performing on the field. Our focus needs to be on the love of playing, on the camaraderie of being in a team, and of cherishing every moment, regardless of the team. These messages need to come through loud and clear from us. Any other messages, detract from the joy of sport seeping into the lives of our young players. Sometimes life is a little unfair, and sometimes coaches do get it wrong. Our response to disappointment faced by our children has an enormous influence on their outlook. Handling a fragile moment such as this takes great wisdom, and requires us to ensure that our own hopes and aspirations don’t get in the way. Guiding a child as they face challenges of this nature is not easy, as we are so emotionally involved, but a more fertile moment to teach and mentor will be difficult to find. For we learn life’s greatest lessons when the chips are down, and not when we are riding the crest of the wave. As I observed from the mid-week cricket match, sport has the unique ability to teach so much in a real and direct manner. It presents all involved with opportunities to grow, to self-reflect and to gain perspective. As we excitedly look forward to a busy winter season, let us not waste such golden moments to nurture and guide those within our care.