We all do it.
The game or practice starts and our focus, vision, and attention become a tiny beam pointed directly at our child. The rest of the world fades off into a comical blur and our child becomes razor sharp. This “hyper focus” while watching them play sports is very normal. But we are missing the big picture and it can be detrimental to their success.
My 10-year old nephew recently attended tryouts for a very competitive soccer club, one of the best in country. He was trying out for the age level above his.
As my brother watched the tryouts, he grew increasingly frustrated with his very talented son. Instead of seizing the moment and shining with aggressive and offensive dazzling displays, his kid was sitting back, playing it safe on defense.
On the car ride home my brother was not hopeful his son would be asked back. He told his kid that if he wasn’t going to rise to the occasion, why did they bother to even come. He gave him advice and critiques about what he needed to do for the next tryout.
Two days later, the second tryout was held and my nephew was invited back. But, it was more of the same. My brother described his feelings of anger and disappointment welling up while he watched his son, again, not “stepping up” for this most important tryout.
This time on the ride home, there was nothing to be said. Clearly his son didn’t want this or so my brother thought. This wouldn’t be his path.
At the end of the week, the team was announced. And much to my brother’s surprise, my nephew made it.
A few months later, he mentioned his experience of the tryouts to the coach. What his son’s coach said is something every parent of a child who plays sports should write down and remember…
He wasn’t looking for 15 kids who all want to play offense and all want to dazzle. He needed to build a well-rounded team.
The coach explained that all of the kids invited to tryout have the skills to be on this team. But he wasn’t looking for 15 kids who all want to play offense and all want to dazzle. He needed to build a well-rounded team. A team with offensive stars and defensive stalwarts. He also needed players who had a maturity to understand what was needed on the field and where the holes were during those tryouts and eventually during the games. What the coach saw wasn’t a kid who didn’t have the skills for his team, what he saw was a kid who innately understood where there were gaps on this team and where he could make a difference.
And he was right.
In my brother’s words: “Good coaches see the game in a different way from even the most engaged parent. Good players also read the game in a different way. Trust your player and let the coach make a good decision.”
Everyone will be much happier in the end.
More often than not, because we are so singularly focused on our kids, we can’t see the big picture, even when our own kids do.