Today, I watched my 11-year-old son become frustrated when he disagreed with the referee’s call. It was the last call of the game. Even though my son’s team played their best of the season, and my son scored and rebounded well, he was upset at the final buzzer. As he walked off the court, he was fighting back the tears.
The team manager, an alumni university all-star, tried to talk to him. She explained it was a foul because he bodied the other player with his chest, even if his hands were straight up. My son listened, but I knew he could not hear. The anger consumed him. Others told him that he played well – but he had no patience for well-intended praise. He wanted to leave immediately. I took my son to the car, knowing no motherly words of wisdom would calm him. I stood outside the car while the team decided meeting times for the hotel pool and dinner.
Here is what I know from my experience as a university athlete, a parent of three athletes, and watching thousands of athletes in my business.
It is ok if your child is upset.
It is ok if they are not always successful on the court.
It is ok if they cry and get mad.
I love sport because it gives athletes the chance to practice life skills.
There will be ‘a next time’ when my son feels frustrated or challenges what he thinks is unfair. There will be ‘a next time’ when he disagrees with a call that someone else has the power to make. Sport allows my son to practice recovering from powerful emotions.
It is always difficult to watch my children struggle. But I know from experience that the struggle will become their strength.
If you want to read about more life lessons learned in sport check out my book Life is a Sport.