Thursday, March 16, 2017


Youth Soccer, Leawood Kansas

I remember playing sports as a kid and listening to all the parents in the stands or on the sidelines shouting at the top of their lungs to their children on the field. Fortunately, I don’t recall that my parents did that to me. If they had, I might have quit organized sports long before I had played my last game. I still enjoy the challenge and camaraderie of sports, but I also keep it in perspective. I don’t like to lose and I play to win, but losing or hitting a bad shot only inspires me to work a little harder and practice a little more.

I never made it into the big time in sports. At my age, I definitely won’t ever make it into the big time! But I’m OK with that outcome as long as I’m still able to answer the bell and walk out onto the first tee of a beautiful golf course and drive the ball between the ditches onto the short grass. I once reported to a vice president that called all of us direct reports into his office one Monday morning. He had a short and direct message for us; “I understand you guys have been playing a lot of golf lately. If I ever hear that any of you has a single digit handicap, you’re fired because you obviously aren’t spending enough time on the job!” I’m still not sure if he was joking or not, but I never played enough golf to find out or win a tournament because I realized that it was important to find a balance in the basic aspects of my life—family, spiritual, work and leisure.

When I found myself on the sidelines with a young daughter on the field, I remembered the calls from parents when I played sports. My wife and I agreed early on that we would work on controlling our criticisms and focus on practice and encouragement. We discussed the proposition that we’d remain supportive of any initiative as long as we observed that she was giving it her best effort. And she always did that. But there were still parents beside us that I’m certain thought they were challenging their daughters to play better with shouts of “Hustle Jackie, Hustle!” And that only seemed to get negative results.

I recently ran across a shared article by Alex Flanagan, about youth sports that caught my attention. She quoted a thirty-year study where kids of all ages were asked “what their parents could say about the sports they played that would make them feel confident and fulfilled. Turns out the words children most want to hear from Mom and Dad are ‘I love to watch you play.’ It’s that easy.” And now that my retired soccer playing daughter and son-in-law have blessed our lives with a beautiful active grandson, I need to brand that advice into my aging brain for the duration!

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