For many of us parents, we seem to be compelled to involve our kids in a myriad of extracurricular activities. In fact, our kids’ itineraries often times rival our own in complexity and sheer demand. Whether its soccer, baseball, dance, gymnastics, football, academic programs or music classes, our quest to endow our kids with virtue, athletic prowess or cerebral edge can boarder on obsessive.
I think sometimes we get so driven on trying to improve our kids through extracurricular activity that we forget they are missing out on their most important coaching opportunities…us. There is without a doubt no more rewarding time and activity that your kid can experience, than playing with you.
As a kid, I too played every sport imaginable. My parents hauled me around in the station wagon and hollered at the top of their lungs from sidelines, poolsides and bleachers. My childhood was filled with a plethora of coaches, and as a college athlete even more. But when I look back on my childhood, the coach that mattered most and the activity that was most rewarding was simply playing catch with my dad.
Today, I work hard at performing the same ritual with my son. The act is both simplistic and profound. The two of us face each other and throw a ball back and fourth. The exercise becomes rhythmic and almost automatic. Yet within that experience we end up talking about sports, school, or friends. He’ll tell me a joke, we’ll laugh together and time kind of stops. I’m not correcting his technique or form and he is not being judged in any way. Neither of us cares.
I think our kids need more of these kinds of coaching experiences. They provide them with a greater sense of confidence and the knowledge that their parents really care about them. Those lessons are the ones that will provide them with the greatest opportunity for success in life and instil in them an importance no other coach can match. So whether it’s reading together, hiking in the woods, or throwing the ball, make sure the coach that matters most is getting some playing time in with the kid. It will mean far more than you can imagine to your child and just about the same for you.