Being an athlete in your younger days teaches you much more than you realize at first. Things such as discipline, hard work, and maybe even how to be a parent.
Beneath the Surface is peeling back the layers of this onion we call sports.
When I first learned that I was going to marry a woman with a son, I was scared. There was an aspect of it that frightened me to my core, but it also didn’t feel foreign. I didn’t feel as if I were stepping into an alien world. Despite never having children before, parenting felt familiar to me.
Over the last four years, I’ve done a good deal of pondering to try and figure out what caused me to feel familiar. My wife and I have had a daughter, and will be having another son in the coming weeks, and each time it felt more familiar than the last. The progression makes sense, but I could never decipher what had caused the initial familiarity which allowed me to feel comfortable taking on the responsibility of a 3-year-old I hadn’t been a part of creating.
One day, when my son was practicing his Tae Kwon Do, it dawned on me; sports and parenting have a lot in common, or rather, they have parallels with uncanny doppelganger characteristics.
The more I developed this thought, the more I refined it down to five points where sports and parenting really share a pedestal. If you have more or different ideas, I’d love to hear them, because I think there are some key lessons to be learned in a conversation such as this.
One of the first things we learn about playing any type of sport is that it takes practice. And not just mindless hours ticking away at the only aspect of the game you enjoy, but hard-nosed, focused practice. We learn that once you practice and master an aspect of the game, then you have to move on to another aspect. Or just as quickly, the rules change as you move up to the next age group.
No matter how good you become over the years at your sport, there will always need to be practice involved. Parenting is no different. Just as you can’t pick up a basketball for the first time in your life and sink 98 out of 100 free throws, you won’t be able to solve every problem for your 3-year-old on the first go. It takes practice.
I think these first two could be interchangeable in terms of which is more important. Discipline is the key to learning any sport, and ultimately is what separates those who excel from those who do not. You have to practice, but in order to ensure the practice gets done, one must be disciplined. Parenting is no different.
As I quickly learned, it takes discipline to do right by your children. You can’t give in to the late night requests for cookies, or the early morning whines begging for chocolate. Yet we often find ourselves giving in to these requests because we’ve had a long day at work, or we feel bad for our child who was at daycare all day. Saying “No” is one of the most difficult things to do, especially as a young parent, but it’s a necessity in order to parent our children.
If you spent the time to learn any kind of sport in your life, you understand the discipline required to be good at said sport. Parenting requires such discipline.
3. Find A Coach
There are a few sports which one would consider an individual sport and many people don’t seek out a coach, but for any team sport there is always a person steering the ship. Guess what!? Parenting is a team sport!
Whether you’re a single parent or your married, parenting is a team sport. Each team may be drastically different, but rest assured, no parent is doing thing completely on their own. At the very least, the children are playing on the field too.
If I asked you to play on a rugby team, knowing that you’ve never played rugby in your life, but I told you there was no coach for the team, you’d likely tell me I was crazy. Parenting is much like rugby, and equally as much a contact sport.
Whether it’s through books or friends, find a coach to help you understand the most important aspects of raising your children. It will help you, yes, but most importantly it will help your kids. They deserve the best parent you can possibly be.
4. Find A Mentor
A mentor and a coach are not the same thing. A coach teaches you how to do things, shows your the ropes, both of which a mentor can do, but there’s another level to mentoring. The most important aspect of mentoring is the ability to both seek counsel in the mentor and receive unadulterated criticism. A mentor can show how they raised their children, the things they did wrong and what happened when they did.
A mentor is someone you trust and someone you love, they will be there through thick and thin. A mentor will know your children as well as they know you, and they will understand your specific situation. Find someone who has raised children, and their children reflect principles you admire. No two children will be the same, but when you look at a 21-year old kid, it’s often easy to tell how well their parents raised them.
Find a mentor, someone you can trust, someone you can rely on, your kids deserve it.
5. Be Patient
We learn early on that nothing comes easy, nothing comes instantly. This applies to sports, the arts, technical skills, and, you guessed it, parenting. Being patient is listed as the last one on this list because I want it to be the one your remember the most. A patient parent can make wiser decisions that the parent who gets wrapped up in the moment, who wants to fix everything immediately. You can’t solve every problem instantly, you can’t teach your kids how to drive a car in one day. You can’t potty train them in three days.
Being a good parent requires patience. Your responsibilities don’t stop when they go to college, just as your responsibility to a sports team didn’t stop once you made the cut to be on the team. A patient parent will understand the aspects on this list, and will ultimately raise their children in a manner in which they deserve.