WHAT SPORT SKILLS CAN TEACH ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY
KidSport Blog Post #2
Today’s blog focuses on the skills we learn in sport and how we can utilize them in our parenting style and family lives. I personally cannot speak to sport skills transferring to parenting, because I have never been a parent myself. But, fortunately, I do know someone who can speak to this intersection: My dad.
I hope you learn a thing or two about parenting from this interview. If not, I hope you are at least entertained by the fun stories and little glimpse into my dad’s life!
The Back Story:
My dad was a very active kid in sport. He played hockey and baseball throughout his childhood, and up until his early-teens. Now, 45 years later, he is still quite active in his everyday life. He takes the dog on long walks, goes on the treadmill, and tries to play tennis as much as he can.
My dad is the main reason that I myself joined sport. He played an active role in taking me to practices, cheering for me from the sidelines, and consoling me after tough losses.
I remember as a kid, playing “baseball” with a rock and a stick that I found in the forest. My dad was the pitcher, and I was the batter. He said if I could hit the rock with the stick, he would get me a real bat, a real ball, and a real glove. We spent hours playing “baseball” together. After hitting many rocks that my dad threw my way, I gained a great passion for baseball.
After recognizing this, he immediately entered me into a baseball league. He got me my own glove, bat, and ball like he promised. We spent hours playing catch with a ‘real’ ball, and swinging a ‘real’ bat. When it came time for try-outs, I was the only girl that made the AAA league! I could tell that he was proud of me for my accomplishments, and still to this day, this is one of my fondest memories of my dad and sport.
Even now, as a varsity track and field athlete, he has never missed out on my competitions. And although I don’t need his help with practicing like I did when I was a kid, he still helps out: making me meals when I get home late, driving me to the bus when the team travels , and always standing on the sidelines, cheering me on.
On Skills That You Learned Through Playing Sport as a Kid:
As we started the interview process, the first question I asked my dad was about was the skills that he learned through playing sport as a kid. I wanted to see if the skills that he learned back then had transferred into parenting skills that he utilized later on in his life.
The first topic my dad touched upon was patience. He told me that raising kids takes a lot of patience (especially when they are young), and this was something that he learned through sport as a kid.
He also talked about learning to get along with your teammates. “Sometimes things won’t always go your way in sport. There will be times where you will have to do things you don’t want to because it’ll help aid your teammates in success”. Eventually, he realized that it was important to make compromises with his teammates when he was playing hockey.
“The skill of compromising is really important in sports and in family life. Getting along as a family can be difficult at times because sometimes everyone will want different things, but working towards a common goal has been really helpful with raising kids”.
On Skills That You Wanted Me To Learn as a Kid in Sport:
Now that I knew about the skills my dad learned through sport, I wanted to see what he wanted me to learn as I started my own sporting journey.
“At the start of your sporting career, I wanted you to learn the physical skills of coordination, balance, and basic physical literacy. That’s why we put you in gymnastics”. As I got older, he went on to say that it wasn’t just about the physical skills anymore. “I also wanted you to learn about being healthy and active for life. I thought that sport would teach you healthy lifestyle habits that would benefit you as you became an adult”.
On top of that, my dad said: “It was also important that you got to see how other kids and parents conducted themselves too”.
By watching my competitions, he was able to draw conclusions about the type of sport parent he wanted to be. “I saw a variety of parenting styles at your games. These helped me to mold myself into the type of sport parent I wanted to be”.
For my dad, my competitions were a glimpse into the lives of the other parents. Sport was a theater and he was watching it all play out from the sidelines. “I could choose if I wanted to be the ‘helicopter’ parent, or the one who didn’t show up, or somewhere in between. I learned a lot from watching and interacting with the parents at your games”.
On Your Favourite Parenting Memory Related to Sport:
When I asked my dad the question of his favourite sport parent memory, he laughed and laughed. “When you were 8, we were in the backyard playing catch with a foam football”. I immediately cracked up, knowing the exact story he was about to retell.
“You threw that football in a perfect spiral, and as it came down from the sky, it smashed into the water valve that was connected to the house. Water gushed out of the pipe, and trickled down into the basement. Despite the flooding, all I could think about was how astonished I was with your accuracy!”
My dad explained that he had the choice to be angry about me flooding the basement, but he chose to be happy and excited instead. By choosing to be happy, he maintained his composure and congratulated me on having “fantastic hand-eye coordination and a good arm”.
On Winning and Losing in Sport:
The next question that I asked my dad had to do with winning and losing in sport. I wanted to see if winning and losing had impacted his parenting style in any way.
“The main lesson that I learned in sport was that it’s not about the final score, or how many wins/losses your team has, it’s about the memories you make along the way”.
He went on to talk about how he thinks losing can be even more important than winning. “I think you learn more from your losses and mistakes than you do from being right (and winning) all the time”. He highlighted that this notion was very important in his parenting style.
“As a parent, it’s sometimes going to feel like you lose more than you win. Rather than looking at that as a negative, you can change perspectives and look at it as a positive. Losing can be positive because it’s more chances to learn and to grow as a person, and as a parent”.
On Something You Wished You Learned in Sport:
This question was probably the toughest one for my dad to answer. He pondered back to his sporting days which happened almost 45 years ago. After a few minutes, he came up with a response.
“I wish I could have learned more about my teammates and their off-ice lives”. As my dad reminisced back to his youth hockey career, he said: “I wish I would have spent more time with them to get to know them better because it was a missed opportunity to have life-long friendships”.
On The Intersection of Sport and Parenting:
As a final question, I asked my dad what he would like to share with others when it comes to the intersection of parenting and sport. He was very passionate about this question, and had a lot to say (all of which I believed to be relevant).
“The main piece of advice that I have is: don’t try to relive your own life through your kids”. I nodded in agreement, as I have personally seen the negative effects that this has had on a few of my past teammates. “Let them live their own lives, and try to be supportive of them and the choices that they make”, he added.
From a personal experience in his childhood, he stated: “try not to push your kids into something that you want them to do, especially if you haven’t asked them first”. A tip he gave was to let the kids in on the family discussion when it comes to picking a new sport. “It’ll make them happy that they get a personal say in what they want to do!”
Our conversation fell silent for a few seconds as we attempted to process this meaningful conversation but then he added: “enjoy sport and parenting for the moment. Sport is meant to be entertaining, so you should try to enjoy every minute of it!”
He continued by saying that it’s important to have a healthy lifestyle as a parent. “Being healthy and active is a way that you can be in your kid’s life for longer. It’ll allow you to spend as much time as you can with them”. He went on to say that “if you are healthy, your kids will pick up on it. It’s a great way to promote activity, exercise and good health for the rest of their lives”.
The final piece of advice that he gave (and the advice that resonates with me the most) is: “when it comes to sport, don’t be a poor loser, and don’t be a poor winner. Be gracious whether you win or lose, and make sure to have fun along the way!”
There will never be enough words to describe how grateful I am for my dad, so I thought that dedicating this blog to him and his remarkable parenting would be a start! This one’s for you dad. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me!