Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Six Words

My boys have started taking tennis lessons.
We've been wanting to get them involved in some sort of athletics for the last year. We wanted them to work on hand-eye-coordination and listening skills and following instructions, and waiting their turn. While we plan to homeschool, JB and I have decided that part of our curriculum will include some sort of sport and musical instrument -- at least while they are young and not quite able to articulate their interests. I think it is important that my kids are exposed to other kids and participating in things outside of the house.  
But JB and I just weren't fans of having our kids playing an organized sport so young. (I didn't start playing softball until I was 9.) I have attended some soccer and t-ball games for five-year-olds, and it just seemed like a lot of effort for not a lot of return. So many practices. So many games. Uniforms and cleats. Snack requirements. And then during the game it seemed the kids were more interested in picking flowers or playing with their friends on the sideline.
Then I heard about tennis lessons. We loved the idea. No games. No parents yelling from the stands. No being out multiple nights a week. Instead, just two one-hour lessons a week. Isaac and Sidge are both in the same group. Five Portuguese kids and my boys. A Portuguese coach who can speak decent English. It sounded perfect.
The boys took to the idea quickly. A month in, and they are finally hitting the ball (sometimes.) I love how patient the coach is and how he makes things fun. I like that they are learning a ton but not having to perform for anyone. I also think taking the lesson in another language is an interesting aspect they couldn't get in the States.
However, all that aside, I realized that this is the first time I have found myself on the parental side of athletics. I've been the player. I've been the coach. But now I am the parent.
And it is HARD.
It is hard to keep my mouth shut. It is hard to not want to coach them before they go in. It is hard to not want to fix all their mistakes when they are done.
[Sidenote: I've never played tennis in my life! I LOVE watching it on TV, and because I am an athlete, I feel like I understand the mechanics of what is required. But truly, my knowledge of how to coach the sport is basically nil.]
So back to my point. I am a parent now. And because of my past experience with athletics, I knew what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to let the coach coach. I was simply supposed to enjoy the experience.
But just a few lessons in, and I was finding myself giving them a list of things to work on when they went in. And after the lesson was over, I found myself going over all the things they did wrong.
I quickly realized I had to nip this problem in the bud. If I didn't, I'd turn into one of those crazy parents I had watched in action so many times.
Then this past week I read this article entitled: The Only Six Words Parents Need to Say to Their Kids About Sports (or Any Performance!) by Brad Griffin.
Here is what Griffin wrote:
Before the competition the only things you should say to your child are:
  • Have fun.
  • Play hard.
  • I love you.

After the competition the only things you should say to your child are:
  • Did you have fun?
  • I’m proud of you.
  • I love you.
He went on to discuss a study of college athletes. When asked what their parents said that made them feel great and brought joy when they played sports, the athletes had six words they most wanted to hear:

“I love to watch you play.”

 I've been sticking to this plan. I have decided that these are the only things I am going to say to my kids in regard to any athletics that they participate in unless they ask me for more feedback. I may also encourage them to "Listen" or "Be polite" or other character-related-actions. But otherwise, I'm totally going to stick to this list.
It came at JUST the right time!

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