When most of us sign our children up for organized sports, we do it because we want our children to be active, have fun, make new friends, learn what it’s like to be a part of something, and possibly find the sport they eventually become pretty passionate about.
So over the years, my husband and I have signed our two boys up for soccer, swimming, hockey and baseball. (Not all at once. We aren’t that ambitious.) They’ve loved pretty much every sport they’ve played – with hockey and baseball being their favourites so far.
But no matter how many times we tell them it’s about having fun and doing their best, our 7-year-old puts the focus on winning. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not the type to throw a fit or get upset if they lose, he’s actually a pretty gracious loser. But he does keep track of how many wins his team has. He knows exactly which teams have previously beat them and by how much. He also knows which teams they’ve ‘destroyed’ as well. (His words, not mine.) He knows all the stats. He knows which team is in first place, which team is in last and he knows who all the “big hitters” are. That’s just the way he works.
Our youngest on the other hand… he doesn’t care as much. If he hits the ball and gets to run around the bases – his smile couldn’t possibly get any bigger. In fact, he cried when he got left on second base after 3 outs because he wanted to run around ALL the bases. But if they lose… oh well!
So each week, we continue to tell them that sure, winning is nice, but it’s not a big deal if they lose. We explain that it’s more important to have fun, do the best they can and try to improve themselves. Hit farther than you did last week. Catch better. Run faster. Although, our little statistics man says he doesn’t need to run faster because he can already run faster than Encarnacion. (Gotta love a kid with confidence, right?)
So they nod enthusiastically and say they’ll do all of the things we just said. But in the back of your mind you know it’s going in one ear and right out the other. Or at least we thought it was.
The other night, we were early for our swimming lessons so we watched some kids play ball hockey while we waited. One of the teams was taking shot after shot on net and they just couldn’t score a goal. So my husband – who felt bad for them - innocently said, “Wow, they can’t seem to get that ball in the net”. And that’s when our 7-year-old – yes, the one who could probably tell you how many wins his beloved Denver Broncos had last season, or how many wins the Jays need to make play-offs this fall – looked up and said…
“Yeah, but they’re trying their best, Daddy.”
I looked at my husband and smiled. Then he smiled. Then we looked down at our son and smiled. We both knew in that moment that he DOES listen. He DOES understand what’s important.
And while every baseball game this summer might not end with a win, we’ll at least walk away with what they call a “parenting win”!