Let me reference the stereo typical Canadian family whose kid(s) play hockey, and has the aspiration to either be in the NHL, on the Olympic team or play for the Canadian Junior team or even the Canada Games (happening as we speak!). I would bet a case of beer (hey if we are going with stereo types lets go all the way), that everyone who plays hockey, can name that parent who takes the game a little too serious, thinks their player is the next Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby, and is never content with the level their player is at.
“What level of hockey does your kid play at?” one may get asked. “Oh, he/she JUST plays “A”. We thought about trying out for “AAA”, but you know, working full time, I didn’t think we could manage”. A justification for the level of play is main stream conversation. Along with the inside voices in many parents heads saying “how did THAT kid make the AAA team?!”. I can guarantee you has happened in every arena across Canada.
Pursuits of status within minor sports can blind us to our relationships with other parents, family and our kids. In Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, he explains that overvaluing accomplishments (as well as possessions) stems from our ego’s fixation on getting more. More wealth, more belongings, power or status. In the context we are talking about it is perceived status. At least that is how it starts. Be honest with yourselves (sports) parents…we have all done it. Judged the kid who we think shouldn’t have made the team, or gone to AAA. “They just bought themselves a seat on the bench!”. It starts as a status thing, and then for some folks (happily, this is not the majority of Canadian hockey parents), it moves to power, belonging, and wealth. “That’s my RRSP out there on the ice” was a comment once spoken by a hockey parent (not me for the record).
With that kind of pressure (and it was pressure for that player!!), and lack of contentment with the level of sport our kids can play, it is no wonder that the drop out rate for youth sports is so high.
Even for those of us who put our kids in sports to keep them off the streets, with no aspirations of being in the NHL, we all have a lesson to learn in watching a game with a mind set of being content with our kids performance. After all it is their game not ours.
Here are some thoughts from Wayne Dyer that we can apply to sports or our own lives.
“You may have a long list of goals (for you or your player), that you believe will provide you with contentment when they are achieved, yet if you examine your state of happiness in this moment, you will notice that fulfillment of some previous ambitions didn’t create an enduring sense of joy. Desires can produce anxiety, stress and competitiveness, and you need to recognize those that do. Bring happiness to every encounter in life, instead of expecting external events to produce joy”.
What if the thoughts changed, that we need to BRING joy to the game, not expect it FROM the game. Your enjoyment of the game is not dependent on a win, if your player scored, or how well they played. Be happy, content, in that moment with what just is, because that is really all that you’ve got! That moment. It is up to you how you choose to experience it.
To really feel what it feels like to watch a game in pure contentment, watch a game in which you have no vested interest in either team. You can try this at your next tournament. Just watch the game for what it is. Feel it in your body, your non-investment in the game. Just watching kids play the sport that you perhaps loved to play. Just watch the game. Capture that feeling and then compare it to the feeling you have when you watch your child play, or your favourite team play. Notice how you sit, what you are looking for as you watch the game, what are you judging, assessing, or desiring more of.
Change your thoughts to allow you to watch a game with contentment, and you will change your experience of the game. Guaranteed!
Picture by Robert Givens