SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Jeff Wahl


March 19, 2007
Monday AM

In the movie City Slickers starring Billy Crystal, three forty year old men decide to re-discover their identity by signing up to participate in a cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado? At one point Phil, one of the lead characters turns to Billy Crystals character and says, "my whole life has been a waste!" he continues, "remember when we were kids and you would hit a foul ball, or the ball got stuck in a tree and we would just say do over? you get a clean slate." "I want my life to be a do over" Phil whimpers. Unlike Phil, we don't need a "do over". We just need to take some time ahead of the fact and be clear about what we want.

Unfortunately, children don't come home from the hospital with an owner's manual. We simply do the best we can. As parents we can all pretty much agree that our intentions are similar. We want our children grow, mature, and learn life's valuable lessons without enduring too much harm in the process.

Youth sports can be a tremendous training ground for these life lessons, but more so if viewed from the correct perspective. The playing field is quite literally an outdoor classroom. Teamwork, sportsmanship, goal setting, and the ability to win graciously and lose with dignity are just a few of the invaluable lessons that a child can achieve by participating.

I have been a youth sports coach for eighteen seasons, and director in our youth league for the past four. I bring hands on and practical experience, and I offer this advice to parents and coaches. Note: 90% of youth coaches are parents with kids on the team. Parents must take a step back, preferably prior to beginning of their kids first season and, THINK FROM THE END.

If a child begins organized youth sports at the age of five, and plays until they are thirteen, (70% of kids will quit organized sports by the time they are 13) they will have a youth career spanning nine years. When those nine years are over, what type of person are we hoping will emerge? What life lessons and character traits will have been learned? This nine-year period accounts for a major portion of their lives, 10%! This time period is an exceptional, if not irreplaceable time to teach and learn the lessons that form character, and the principled based thinking. How do my parents react when a call doesn't go our way? How does my coach act when confronted with the opportunity to cheat? How do the adults I observe handle the many challenges that arise during a youth sports season? These young players are watching and learning not only how to play the game, but they are learning how to act and react in society. Our actions truly speak louder than our words.
Unfortunately you cannot unscramble eggs, or call a "do over" after your children have grown. However, the good news is that we all have the opportunity, at this moment, to change our expectation of what we hope their experience will be. Do you want them to look back on the experience and see it as a tough and stressful time? Or do you want them to remember what a great time they had making friends, learning to love the game, and how your supported them regardless of the outcome. We can use these newly formed ideas as a compass to guide our way. Take advantage by giving teachable moments the significance they deserve, you can look back on your child's youth sports career and stand proud, because you THOUGHT FROM THE END.

Jeff Wahl
Littleton, CO

Received March 15, 2007 - Published March 19, 2007

About: Jeff Wahl is currently writing a book on Sports Parenting. I have been a youth sports coach for 19 seasons, and a youth sports director for the last four years.




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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska