One of Thousands – A Challenge to Youth Sports Parents

I once heard a therapist explain to an audience of perfectionists that the concern with perfectionists are that they tend to treat every situation as a 10 on a scale of 1-10.  Kid’s hair is bit messy?  A perfectionist sees it as a 10 and says, “You can’t leave the house looking like that!  We’re getting you a haircut today!”  Car a bit dirty? A perfectionist says “I MUST clean out my car today, it’s a mess, add it to my long list of to-dos!”  Presentation due tomorrow?  “I was up all night finishing my PowerPoint, and I’m still not sure if it’s ready!”

The therapist went onto advise that it’s important for perfectionists to treat everyday situations as 4s or 5s, instead of 9s and 10s.  The reason being is that there are going to be times when a situation warrants a 10, and far too often the perfectionist does not have the mental and physical energy to handle the real crisis because they’ve been using up all their energy on the small stuff.  She went onto to advise her audience to assign numbers (1-10) to the stresses in their lives and focus on the activities that really matter.

I thought this advice was exceptional and it reminds of the sidelines of our youth sports in America.

Each week, I observe dozens of youth athletic games and I consistently see coaches and parents treating the weekend’s game as if its the World Cup final or game 7 of the World Series.  In other words, treating today’s sporting event as a 10, when in reality, its just another game, one of hundreds or thousands to be played by their athlete.

Not every game is the same and some are more important than others.  But if we treat EVERY game like a 10, how do we recognize the difference?  I believe many parents (and Coaches) don’t or can’t recognize the difference.   Further, there will come a time when games do mean more.  Maybe it’s a high school varsity playoff game.  Maybe its tryouts for a new team.  Will you have the mental energy to manage your athlete during these more trying times?  If you’ve treated every game, every season, as the end all, be all, I’m afraid your advice and guidance will fall on deaf ears when the moment is most important.

I’ve been there.  When my oldest was first starting to play competitive sports, I felt his performance was being judged every game.  I felt that if he didn’t perform at a high level that he would be benched.  Or, I would grow frustrated that his performance was not at the level I knew he was capable.  This frustration led to some bad parenting moments.  I can remember a few car rides in which I said plenty that shouldn’t have been said.  I wish I knew then, what I know now, and that is he has many games to play in his lifetime.  He will learn and grow at his pace.  And that’s OK, it just one game, just one season.  One of thousands to be played.

So, here’s a challenge for all parents.

First, use this tool to find out how many games your athlete will play in their lifetime and how many games they have left.




Then, before this weekend’s games, assign a number to the importance you feel these games have on your athlete’s career.  1 is low, 10 is high.

Then watch and communicate with your athlete in a way that fits the scale.  Ask yourself if you are acting with the appropriate amount of perspective given how many games are still to be played by your athlete.

I then challenge you to share your results with us via the comments below or tweet me @Kidsucksat.

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