Should a singular sports moment define one's accomplishment?

2/10/2015

Editor's note: This blog post was originally published at RaisingYourGameBook.com. It has been re-posted on the NAYS Blog with the author's permission.

Youth sports blog super bowl
Your child isn't playing for the entertainment of fans. He or she is simply playing for their own enjoyment.

The Seattle Seahawks were just 36 inches and 26 seconds away from repeating as champions. Yet, in sports, the seemingly inevitable doesn't always occur. Malcolm Butler, an undrafted rookie for New England, stepped in front of Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette and made "the play" that allowed the Patriots to raise the Lombardi Trophy for the fourth title in 14 years.

For several days, the airwaves (TV, radio, and social media) have been inundated with critics, people focusing not on what Lockette did, but what the Seahawks chose not to do. After all, they had running back Marshawn Lynch available to bulldoze into the end zone, and elected to have Russell Wilson pass instead.

This is why we love sports: you can always expect the unexpected. For two weeks prior to the Super Bowl, countless commentators analyzed every possible aspect of the game, and yet no one imagined this ending.

It may be a much smaller scale, but the same is true of youth sports. You can't script anything. Mistakes, miscues, and mishaps are more the norm than the exception when a child is learning sports fundamentals. Expect to see errant plays. Expect scenarios where victory is snatched away and defeat ensues. Try and do your best to meet these moments with understanding as no one athlete should be held responsible for a team's loss.

In our book, Raising Your Game – Over 100 Accomplished Athletes Help you Guide Your Girls and Boys Through Sports – some of the best athletes in the United States and abroad will tell you how such events happened to them during their childhoods. Fortunately, they spoke of how such setbacks became motivating factors that propelled them to not give up, but instead, learn from the mistake, improve, become resilient and rebound.

Don't ever let an awful moment define your child's sports life, any more than that Super Bowl moment should define any of the Seahawks coaches or players. Seattle played 16 regular season games, two playoff games and more than 59 minutes to get to that fateful play, and wouldn't have even had the chance to fail without plenty of positive plays and decisions.

Your own child isn't playing for the entertainment of hundreds of millions of people, or the bettors, or the fans. He or she is simply playing for his or her own enjoyment and enrichment. So, when something bad happens, don't distill the entire experience down to that single situation. For them, it is not all or nothing. They're not winners or losers, even if they win or lose that day. They're just young athletes, giving their all, trying their best. Guide your child to see the good and bad in their performance, without focusing too much on either extreme. When they fall short, highlight what they accomplished. When they soar to new heights, let them know what they can still improve. Try to help them prepare as best they can, while knowing that there's always the opportunity for the completely unexpected.

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