Sport is the altar of failure and frustration for many. Competitive sport is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the physically frail. At CS Academy (a K-XII school), we regularly work with students who have tremendous potential in sport. But over the last 10 years, since our inception, we have found very few students who succeed in the traditional sense, much to the chagrin of their parents. Which leads me to the big question: Are we setting up our children to fail in sport? Are we setting the right expectations and goals?
The chance of professional success in sport is minuscule. But that is not the Goal. The Goal is to ensure every child learns a sport that they can pursue with a passion as they grow older. From a physical fitness perspective, keeping diabetes at bay and so many more health benefits, sport is unparalleled. It beats running on a treadmill any day. Learning to face failure and then get up and keep going is another reason we play. To tell my daughter it is okay to lose in the first round of tennis, but then to get up and go back to practice the next day teaches her perseverance; to never give up. When she blames her team for the loss in a throw-ball match, the lesson is to point out what she could have done better and what team work means – we succeed together. When she wins her tournament and is happy, it is the time to point out that the opponent needs to be recognized and greeted courteously and congratulated for participation; winning with grace is important. When boys are physically violent on the football field and hurt each other, it is the time to tell them to behave like gentlemen; violence begets violence, and everyone loses.
Contact sport is physical and often explosive. Young boys on the field chasing down a ball are full of energy and adrenaline. Pushing and shoving are common on the field. Twisted ankles, sprained ligaments, bruises and scratches are even more common. Tears after losses and heartbreak are par for the course. If you as a parent cannot handle that and focus on the Goal, then save yourself from pain – do not send your child for competitive sport. You cannot make an omelette without breaking some eggs.