I have always thought that participating in sports makes you better prepared to face the difficult things in life because you have to learn to put the highs and lows into perspective. It is a hard lesson to learn as a child but we get another crack at it as parents when our children play sports. Because unless you are raising an extremely independent, well-adjusted Jedi master of all sports who simply shrugs off wins and defeats in equal measure, you will find yourself joining your child on an all too familiar emotional rollercoaster of winning and losing, victory and failure, dominating and being robbed.
It would be great if during those testing times, when our children have really struggled to finish a race or their team has been destroyed by an opposition of giants, they would just believe us when we shared our well-known nuggets of wisdom such as ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that’s important but how you play the game’. However, far from nodding their heads and thanking us for pointing them in right direction, this only helps to provoke a comeback that lasts the entire journey home. Remarkably, they still have the energy to deliver well-rehearsed put downs and even counter quotes such as ‘Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing’. And like a one-sided rap battle from hell, you can only wait until the multitude of witty sarcasm runs out before you get the chance to backtrack and try to assure them that it really is going to be ok.
This is even more difficult when you try to commiserate with the child who has a sports injury because they really do not want to hear that ‘it’s not the end of the world’. It makes no difference to the frustrated runner or cyclist who didn’t finish to know that they did not fail, it was the muscle or tendon that finally quit. Try to reason with them too soon and you will likely be rewarded with a scowl and earful of abuse.
It is sometimes a challenge to downplay the setbacks and defeats your children have to experience as they play sports. How do you encourage and motivate them to get back into the game without putting pressure on them to succeed while trying to get across that it’s more important that they are actually enjoying the sport? It’s equally difficult to help them be patient with injuries and recovery when they are fighting to return too soon. I am still working on the solution to all this but one thing that at least has allowed me to show them that winning isn’t everything is by competing in sports, myself. Hopefully, by seeing me take part despite the fact that I will never come first will help to convince them that it’s not all about the competition. But I suspect that if I try to tell them that there are different kinds of ‘wins’ in the real race of life, they will suggest that I really need to up my training.
Speaking of training, one of my children recently completed their Duke of Edinburgh assessment for the Bronze Award, which involved trekking for 2 days in the Peak District. He asked me if I could come up with some bars that would fuel him through it. Challenge accepted! These DofE trek bars are more suited to be eaten as a recovery bar after sports because they are full of carbs and protein. However, they were perfect fuel for the DoE trek, would suit any long hike and they also worked recently for a very difficult 100 km+ cycling sportive.