Folks, It's Just a Game
I was sat on holiday in San Diego with my family watching a softball game. Yes, a football fanatic sitting down at a local softball ground to watch slo-pitch – don’t judge me. As I foolishly took my eyes off of the frantic pace of the game, I noticed a profound saying on the outside of the fence, facing the fans – all three of us.
The quote began with, ‘Reminders From Your Child.’ That first sentence in itself shocked me. We as parents, coaches and family members want what’s best for our children yet there are times where we don’t take a step back and listen to what they themselves wish for. Due to a greater understanding and experience of the big bag world, we naively reject the opinions of our juniors. However, what we don’t realise is that youngsters look at the world through a clear, untainted lens with no pre-judgements. Adults on the other hand tend to approach situations based on previous experience - what was successful and what wasn’t - rather than having a fresh perspective. This is a dangerous approach. What I took away was to listen more and tell less - no matter who the conversation is with.
The next two lines were, ‘I’m a Kid, It’s Just a Game.’ Talk about a sucker punch. Just a game? I’m a winner and don’t settle for less than success, I thought to myself. What I neglected was the, ‘I’m Just a Kid’ part. Coaching and mentoring isn’t about us – it’s about the success of those whom we teach. I believe we all ‘know’ that but do we truly understand it? Are you willing to lose to teach a valuable, sustainable lesson to a child or is there too much pressure from parents and club personnel that your ego will be deflated should you succumb to such honour? I saw it throughout my youth and not much has changed. Parents feel so vested in their children that they subconsciously inhibit their freedom of expression which is what really creates excellence.
The kicker was protecting who we love to hate the most, the officials. ‘The Officials are Humans’ – I officially felt like scum. I, like the rest of you reading this, have berated officials throughout my football career. I would say rightly or wrongly however, there is no right in it. Listen, mistakes happen and it is our job to look at a fellow human and acknowledge that their doing the best they can – their best might just not be perfect all the time. The major problem here is the cascading effect from the vitriol which we throw at the man or woman in the middle. Our kids see and hear everything we do and say and inevitably will begin to do the same. We have a responsibility to ourselves, the officials but most importantly the kids to be good stewards of the beautiful game.
Football, just like all sports, isn't about you, the vendetta you may have against the opposition's manager or the number of goals your child scored in an 11-0 thumping. It is about teaching valuable life lessons which children will hold with them as they become the next generation of revolutionaries in our great world.
Sometimes we learn lessons during the oddest moments but at just the right time.
The below video is a fascinating look into the humility of children and an example which we can use in all of our lives - compassion in victory: