After the game this Saturday, undoubtedly your sons did the same as mine. Changed out of their uniform, had some lunch, and went on about their business being young men. I’m not sure why I had it in my mind that they would take this loss harder than they did. Instead, the first thing my son mentioned was, “We didn’t lose a game for over 2 years. That’s pretty awesome!” I understand this looks like a letter about 4th grade football from a guy who technically isn’t even a coach, but hang with me. This letter isn’t about football. This is family having a talk that’s been a long time coming.
As the boys came on and off the field this Saturday it wasn’t that I saw something in their eyes. I saw something missing. No spark, no joy, no hustle…no fun. You see, around this age young men start looking for validation. Everything they do is about testing their strength against something else. In these coming years our future husbands, fathers, business owners, whatever they choose, are beginning to shape their self-image and world view. Although not directly, they are daily asking us the question, “Do I have what it takes?” How we respond has everything to do with the men they become.
This weekend my heart was heavy. More often than not we, the family, offered less fruit and more frustration. Instead of words of encouragement and praises for the things done right, we focused on mistakes and missed opportunities. I can’t think of anything worse to a 9-year-old boy than to be fighting a battle on the field only to meet a second battle on the sideline. I have to apologize to you, parents. I was more concerned this week with your sons’ performance on the field than I was his development off the field. Consequently, I didn’t do the best job protecting their hearts this weekend. There were tears in the huddle not because of the physical pain or their own disappointment. They had tears because of the pressure they felt to perform and the disappointment in their family’s voices. I had no words that could pull them out of that rut. A parent or coach’s painful words are hard to overcome. What happens in our hearts and minds that makes us numb to the reality that we’re stealing our children’s joy? If I had that answer I’m sure I’d have been on Dr. Oz by now but the truth is I don’t. Somewhere in our own brokenness, maybe we just don’t know a better way.
Somewhere around that field every week, I look at screaming coaches as they pile fear and anxiety on their players and I refuse to be one of them. Discipline is necessary so everyday won’t be rainbows and puppies for our boys. My commitment to you however, is that I won’t be the one to steal their joy. I will daily encourage and love these boys so they will know that their worth is more than what they can offer on a football field. My commitment is that when your child askes, “Do I have what it takes?”, he will get a resounding, “Yes!”