Your Child’s Story

“Sometimes the road you are traveling seems blocked, or it opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back.  Then, when the time is right, the way before you suddenly clears–through no effort of your own.  What you have longed for and worked for I present to you freely, as pure gift.”

—Sarah Young, JESUS CALLING

Believe it or not, there is an end to sports.  When Peyton Manning retired, one of the most prolific quarterbacks to ever play the game of football, he simply stepped away.  Lo and behold, he still has a life, a wonderful family, incredible memories, and new endeavors.  My guess is he still loves the game, and is grateful for what the game provided for him, but it’s from a different vantage point now.

Whenever your child is in the midst of sports, and your resources including time and money are invested around these activities, you feel that it will go on like this forever.  But each child’s sports story ends at some point in time, either by injury, burnout, being selected out, or simply changing priorities.  That is why it is primarily important to honor relationships and the internal growth of your child even above the pursuit of trophies and championships, throughout the sports journey.  Because when it ends, that is what remains.

If you are able to view challenges and disappointments, as well as victories and jubilation within this context, then you can experience peace with your child’s sports story.  Each story is unique, based on a path you will not be completely able to control.  The 12-year old boy who dominates little league pitching may develop burnout and overuse injuries.  He then moves to another sport or the arts or debate, and there he discovers aptitudes and passions he did not know existed.  Or the best quarterback in the college ranks finds the NFL version of football to be less fulfilling and more demanding, so he devotes his  life to something outside of the sports arena.  The 16 year old gymnast who has devoted her entire youth to improving her skills in the gym, hours and hours and hours, experiences the need to change sports, perhaps retire completely and enjoy other aspects of her life such as parties, spending time outdoors, or reading and writing.

Excruciatingly painful is the instance where the young athlete for whatever reason, seems to be overlooked, unrewarded for his effort and hard work in a sport.  He is forced to look elsewhere.   However, very often he unexpectedly discovers vast enjoyment and social enhancement in a different sports environment: school team to church team, competitive league to recreational league, gymnastics to diving, football to lacrosse, soccer to football, baseball to golf, etc.   What is especially difficult for adults is to not frame this as failure, but rather a change of direction in the sports journey, a new chapter in the story of your child.  When another player succeeds, and  you feel your child has been unduly denied opportunities, use your perspective to acknowledge that your child’s story is different from theirs. And always remember that there are those times when good people simply “fall through the cracks,” so to speak.   Your child may be equally deserving but not receive the honor.  That’s reality in life.  Sports can teach you that.

When you come to a crossroad on your child’s sports journey, aspire to make your choices with the knowledge that what endures when all of these sports activities are over is most important.  Such decisions are often difficult, and we don’t always make the right ones.  But take comfort in knowing that your child’s story is unfolding in a unique way, and honoring that truth, be on the lookout for the next bend in the road, or the opening of the next pathway.  After all, when sports are over, hopefully they have served your child by facilitating positive growth not only personally but relationally.

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