Saturday, December 14, 2013

It Really Is OK For Your Kids To Be Disappointed

So over the weekend, two Texas high schools played each other in a football game and, let's just say - it was a blowout.  Aledo High School beat Fort Worth Western Hills 91-0. Some are saying that a beating of that magnitude constitutes as bullying, and one parent of a player on the losing team has actually filed a formal complaint. With all the horror stories in the news lately of the bullying that is going on and the effects it is having on our children, it is somewhat understandable that parents are more sensitized to it. However, does that mean a winning team should purposefully dumb down their game to lessen the spread? Personally, I think the answer to that is no.

My son just started on a local U8 soccer team. They have had 4 matches - 2 the first week and 1 each on the second and third weeks. The first two matches were terrible. They lost the first one 12-0 and they lost the second one 7-0, I believe. As a parent of a child on a losing team, let me just tell you, that sucks. There is nothing worse than seeing your child bust his ass only to lose. The teams they played in the first 2 games were obviously better players and had an unfair advantage.

There are 6 kids on my son's team - 2 girls, 4 boys. Each match is 4 to a side, no goalie. During the first practice, they split all the kids up into random teams and all the coaches walked around evaluating the players. They took this information and supposedly created the teams by mixing the experienced players with the not-so-experienced players. It was obvious during those first 2 matches that my son had been placed on a team of basically inexperienced players. He is also lacking experience as his only other involvement with soccer was during a week long camp two summers ago.

Each team is sponsored by a local business. One thing that was glaringly obvious to me right from the get-go is that these so called sponsors obviously have a certain amount of influence when it comes to picking teams. The whole "I'll be a sponsor if my son Bobby and his friends Tommy and Billy can be on our team". If you watch the interaction between some of the kids on these teams, they are obviously buddies and have been playing soccer for a while. Is this fair? Not at all. But life isn't fair. There is always going to be someone who has a leg up on you because of money, or knowing the right people.

Do I think that the team that beat us 12-0 in the first match we ever played should have purposefully lessened their game so that the final score wasn't so high? No. Do I think that team was bullying us by beating the snot out of us? Sure don't. They were better, they played better, they deserved to win. Whether it is because they had more experience than our kids or not, they played the better game.

During week two's match, our kids improved slightly, but were still not on the same level as the team we played. There were a couple of kids who looked like they had been playing since birth. Also, they had 8 players on their team. Our team only has 6 and 2 of them were out of town. Every 7 minutes, or so, the opposing team switched out every kid, meaning not one of them had a real opportunity to get tired. Our 4 kids had to play the ENTIRE game. They had no one to sub in and out. My son was so exhausted after the match that he barely spoke for 2 hours. Is that fair? No, I don't believe it is. However, it is also not something we could control. We can't tell the other team not to sub their players just because we don't have that option.

Fast forward to week three...our kids actually looked like a team. They were finally playing offense and not just relying on defense to stop goals. They were getting in there and actually trying to score goals! Novel concept, I know, but when you have a team of beginners who have been beaten so badly in all the other games, it is understandable that they just want to hover around the goal to stop as many points from being scored as possible. Don't ask me why they don't have goalies this year. I don't understand it, and neither to most of the other parents. But, it is what it is and will be different next year.

I'm afraid that we have become a society so concerned with not letting our kids feel left out or less than any one else, that we are setting them up for major failure later in life. There is always a winner and a loser. In everything. soccer teams, football teams, job interview candidates, etc...etc...etc... Why do we feel the need to coddle our children so much? It isn't just in sport either. Nowadays, teachers are being reprimanded by parents for their children failing.

Um, how about you take some accountability here. Your kid is failing? Maybe you should actually sit with them in the evening and make them read to you. How about you tell them to turn of the TV...X-Box...Play Station...iPad...and tell them to get on with their homework. How about you put yourself second for once and get over the "inconvenience" of your child's education. I'm very sorry it interferes with your time tending to your horses, or hanging out with your friends, or getting your nails or hair done, or whatever else you feel it gets in the way of. Or worse yet, stop doing your kids homework/projects/assignments for them and make them accountable for themselves.

We are so concerned with making sure everyone is on a level playing field in everything, that we are neglecting to teach them fundamentals such as not always winning, being a good sport and not being a sore loser. Could you imagine if, in 1944, the Sooners took it easy on the K-State Wildcats when they beat them 68-0? Or Bobby Bowden telling the Seminoles to ease up on the Wolfpack back in 1995 when they whooped them 77-17? Of course not. That would be like walking into a room full of candidates all vying for the same job you are and asking them to tone down their resume because you don't have quite as much experience as they do.

Come on people. Wake up. No parent wants to see their child fail at anything. It absolutely broke my heart looking at those kids faces week after week, being defeated by the other teams. Did I make a stink and run to the league officials telling them to rearrange the teams or accusing the winning teams of bullying? Of course I didn't. What lesson is that going to teach my son about sportsmanship? Nothing, that's what. All it is going to teach him is that someone should be there to pick up his mess and wipe is butt for him for the rest of his life.

What I did was simple. I allowed him to be disappointed, hurt and upset at their losses. I told him that is was OK not to win, and that the more his team practices, the better they will get. I told him to continue trying his hardest. You know what he said to me? "It's OK, mom. I had fun playing and that's all that matters."

To my son I say, you got it, buddy. As long as you are doing your best and having fun while you do it, that is all you can ask for. It isn't about winning or losing. Sometimes you'll win, sometimes you won't - that goes for everything in life. We need to show our children that it is OK if you don't come in first all the time. Pop that proverbial bubble and stop sheltering them from disappointment. Make them be accountable for their own actions - whether it is how they conduct themselves on or off the field, working hard in school, or anything else they may be doing.

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