It’s Spring Break and lots of parents have a respite from toting kids to athletic games. It’s a break I welcome as I’m a coach on my son Na’im’s lacrosse team. My 10-year-old is in the middle of his second lacrosse season. Following his games, the question he gets asked most often is “did you win?” It seems that’s the only barometer we have for success. After a recent game in which we lost 7-5 in a hard fought contest, I started to ask Na’im a few new questions over one of his favorite post game indulgences – queso.
Did you have fun? Emotions ran high during the game. We played sluggishly in the first half but poured in on in the second half. We came up short. I want to keep my pulse on if this experience is fun for Na’im. We compete as hard as we can, play to win and we want to have fun. Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Search Institute identified fun as one of the Five Key Elements to Positive Youth Development. Participation has to be enjoyable to develop a love of the game. Na’im is at a stage where he is still learning to train. More than 75% of young people stop playing competitive athletics by the age of 13. Young people stop having fun when too much emphasis is placed on winning when skill development is still maturing.
Did you do your best? This gets to the issue of developing the habit of excellence. Did you play as hard as you could? Were there times you let up? Did you take the coaching? We have a saying on our team, “In everyday day, in every way.” I’m proud of Na’im as long as he does the best he can. If he does his best and his team loses, I’m proud of the effort. If he doesn’t do his best and they win, I feel he has cheated himself. Sometimes we can be fooled by success.
What did you learn? Every experience should be a learning opportunity. Life is one big opportunity to practice. To acknowledge what we learn helps to reinforce it. It also builds our self-esteem when we recognize we’ve made progress in an area. How often as adults do we overlook our accomplishments as if they were no big deal? Na’im said he learned “how to run faster.” I thought it was an interesting comment so I probed a little more. What he meant was he learned how to better position himself on the field and use angles to his advantage. That slight modification put him in a position to make two passes to a wide open teammate for two scores.
Wayne B. Moss is BGCA's senior director of Sports, Fitness and Recreation.
What could you improve? My goals for Na’im are simple – to have fun, improve his skills and to have a positive experience leaving him wanting to continue to play. Identifying areas to improve doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong. It just means being conscious (another critical skill). Na’im said he wanted to improve his ability to face off. Interestingly, through the next week, I saw him watching YouTube videos on face offs. What’s more, without any prompting from me, he was practicing what he learned while hanging around the house. By the way, I think it’s more fun the better we are at a something.
Our post game chat proved to be a rich conversation. Sometimes it’s difficult to get good answers from children. Maybe we need to ask better questions.