The Lessons Too Hard to Teach at Home
While I play both roles, a Dad and Coach, I'm Dad first, last and always. So this post is written from that side of me. Some lessons are just too hard for me to teach as Dad, so I'm so glad that my son, Owen learned this one with me in the stands. He competed in the State gymnastics tournament and was very excited. Twice this season he has managed to score the all-around total he would need to reach in this meet to make it to the Regionals meet. To do this his first year at Level 6 would be a great accomplishment.
The meet was going great. By his last event (Rings), he only needed a score of 9.6 to make the Regionals meet. He's not scored below 11.x all season. He's looked up at me several times during the meet showing his satisfaction in his performance. I was beaming with pride, reflecting his. He wasn't cocky, just confident. But the rings proved to be a tough challenge that night. His first press up challenged him more than usual, but he made it up. The rest of the routine, though not his best, was going along just fine.
Then... during the last few swings and a move called a dislocate which is a complete circle before his dismount, his hands slipped and he ended up standing on the mat below the rings one move too soon. I saw his shoulders slump a bit in disbelief. He couldn't believe that had happened and there was a moment of confusion. "What do I do now?" It had never happened to him before in a meet. Then he stepped down to the chalk bin and re-chalked his hands. He looked focused, but concerned. He stepped back up and his coach lifted him to the rings. He began his swings again and right back into the last moves. This time, he held on slightly longer, but it was as if his hands had turned on him and released too soon again. This time it was as he was in mid-rotation with head swinging down and legs swinging up. It was a scary sight, but with the speed of his rotation, he ended up missing his head and slammed to the mat on his hands and knees. I could tell he would have liked to have left his face burried in the mat a little longer, but he stood up and saluted the judge with sadness in his eyes.
My chest was so tight as I watched him sit with his face buried in his hands as the judge flashed an 8.5. Even after all that, he was still only .9 away from his goal of making Regionals. It was so hard on him, and still is, but he's strong and is proud of the rest of his performance. He has more than physical strength.
Looking back on it, I recognize this is why we have our kids in sports. Championships are great and we can learn a lot from the path to victory, but we keep score for a reason. The lessons we learn from the near miss, from the painful loss... those are the lessons that parents can't put our children through alone. It hurts too much to see their sadness. But to allow them to play sports, and to allow them to deal with the results of their performance, is to allow them to learn those life lessons. To grow... I don't believe in protecting them from the score and I don't believe in protecting them from judgement. They'll learn the lessons that we love them too much to inflict.
Childrens' sports have three goals. They are for fun! Let the kids play, let them compete, and let them enjoy the challenge. They provide fitness. Get them off the couch and keep them fit and healthy. And they are to teach life lessons. At this meet, my son had a lot of fun. He competed in 5 events in a row, achieving his highest score ever in 2 of them and performing his best ever in a third, even though the score was slightly below his highest. All this and he was doing it with his teammates who laugh and work together for 12 hours a week. After those 12 hours, his fitness is unquestionably excellent. And he learned that sometimes, no matter how hard you work and prepare, sometimes things just go wrong. That hurts, but it's the truth. And you just get up, salute those judging you, and take pride in what you HAVE accomplished. Don't let one failure blind you of a season and a State meet full of accomplishments. And Owen didn't.
There you go... All 3 goals of sports... achieved! That's why we keep score... That's why he's there, and that's why I couldn't be more proud of him.