As I sat on the airplane heading home from a recent Program 15 baseball camp, I had a chance to reflect back on the different discussions that were had over the course of the two days of training. With each discussion came more insight as to how important it is to connect the dots between the parents, players, and the coaches. Here are a few examples:
- Parents sit in the stands with baited breath as the kids go through each field activity hoping their kid does something to “stand” out
- Coaches communicate direction without knowing whether or not there is clarity in the direction given
- Players are afraid to make mistakes because their parents are staring at them from the stands during each individual activity
I reflected on the 30 minutes that I sat in the stands with the parents to observe the camp from their viewpoint. I thought about the countless hours sitting in the stands watching my own two sons play sports and having that same feeling of anxiety with every move they made. It is amazing how different it is to watch other people’s children play sports. The anxiety, tension, pressure to see them perform is completely gone. My next thought was, how do we get the parents to enjoy this special time and moment in their child’s life before it comes to an end? When I say end, I mean the ability to see them in their current state as a young athlete. After high school, it just isn’t the same.
As I walked around the field during warm-ups, I could see parents providing sideline coaching to some of the boys as they threw the baseball. The parents didn’t even have to speak. Their non-verbal communication told the story. I felt bad for these kids. Here they are, doing what they love to do, getting ready to play in front of their peers, coaches, scouts and parents and yet they’re scared to death that they will not perform up to anyone’s expectations. You could feel their tension with each throw. All I could do at that time was provide encouraging words and keep them laughing.
Baseball is such a calming sport. It is slow and methodical – a thinking person’s game. Part of my reflection was thinking about how far removed from calming the sport often is for young athletes. Did I run fast enough? Did I field the ball the correct way? Is my swing perfect? Can I actually compete at this level? My goodness, how can you possibly play well with all of these thoughts going through your mind? There isn’t anything calming about that! Baseball should be a child’s game but we expect our children to play like professionals. How can we get parents, players and coaches to immediately reflect on their part of the experience to ensure each time there is a firm appreciation and enjoyment for what they are able to witness in an athlete’s performances. Witnessing your son or daughter play a sport and come of age is something special. The challenge is whether your eyes, mind and heart open up to see and enjoy those moments?
The insight that I drew from the weekend’s event provided me with the answers to my questions. Is what I’m doing making a difference? Is anyone listening and learning from what is being taught? Are parents able to step away for moments of time and enjoy these opportunities to enjoy observing their athletes? Can coaches learn to listen more intently and respond with a better understanding of how to help each player? Lastly, can the players learn to be better people through change adaption, improved communication skills and a visualized, structured and clearly mapped out plan based off of SMART Goals? I closed my eyes on that plane and when I opened them, I smiled and said, YES! Yes they can, and yes they will. Anything done with passion and for the benefit of others is definitely worth it and making a difference.
I encourage you to step away, reflect and think about the positive impact that you can make on others lives. We never know whom we will impact and when, but if we aren’t trying, it’s a sure thing that it won’t happen.