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Cornelius News

Attention sports fans: Be the bus driver

With apologies to Jackie Gleason and “The Honeymooners”

MODERN DAD | By Jon Show

Nov. 5. Youth sports are a big part of our family. My kids love to play and we love to watch them. But as they get older and the demand on time, budgets and everything else has increased exponentially, I’ve started to ask myself:

What do I want my kids to get out of playing sports?

There are the standard answers that everyone has to that question: Life lessons, teamwork, sportsmanship … the list goes on and on. But I wanted a simple answer – something that I could point to and hold as a north star.

You’ll have to take my word on this but I am not a crazy sports parent. I don’t scream from the sidelines or complain about coaches. I don’t dissect my kids’ performances on the car rides home. I’m not trying to live vicariously through them and I’m not road mapping their path to some mythical college sports scholarship.

But I’m also not claiming to be perfect. I have yelled from the sideline at times – though it’s few and far between. We’ve also had a couple rough car rides home – though the subject was about attitude and effort and never about performance.

In trying to answer my question I enlisted the opinions of other parents – what did they want their kids to get out of sports? Everyone seemed to have a different answer but the overarching theme always drifted toward “maximizing their potential.”

The end game

I prodded another dad about my genuine lack of interest in “maximizing their potential” and he put this back at me, “Then what’s the end game? How do you want this to end for your kids?”

And that was simple.

I want my kids – whether they play their final games in elementary or middle or high school or whenever – to walk off of the field and look around and see their friends standing next to them and us cheering from the sideline. I want them to thank their coaches and feel true gratitude for the experience.

I want them to have accumulated amazing memories, and then I want them to close that chapter with fondness and look forward to whatever is next with the same amount of excitement and possibility.

That’s really it, but any end game still needs a plan in order to get there, right?

Three truths

As I thought about it some more I felt like I had three truths about myself that had to guide the thought process.

The first is that I’m endlessly proud when I watch them play, but I’m not emotionally invested in how good either of them become at their respective sports. They have dreams and I hope to the ends of the Earth and beyond that they achieve those dreams.

The second is that youth sports, to me as a parent, are nothing more than a vehicle to teach my kids how to be good people. Some people choose church or Girl Scouts. I chose sports. Nearly every challenge you face as an adult is faced in similar form as an adolescent on a playing field.

Third, all I aspire to be in this construct is the bus driver. All the bus driver does is drive the bus and watch the game – they aren’t scratching out plays on the white board to and from the field. They just drive the bus.

Fun and games

After thinking about it some more – because I can overthink the instructions on a Jello box – the roadmap became simple.

I just want them to have fun. Real, tangible fun … and not the kind where you ask if they had fun before delving into their performance on the field.

Pretty simple, right? Looking back I guess I struggled to find the answer to my question because I never needed them to get anything out of sports. I just needed to remind myself of that. Needs versus wants.

I don’t need them to score the most points or goals. I don’t need them to be all stars or MVPs. I don’t need them to make national teams. I will be endlessly proud if they do any of those things but my parental self-esteem isn’t affected if they don’t.

I’m often told that I try to boil things down too much. That I try to make things too simple. That there’s no such thing as simplicity in a complex world.

I guess youth sports aren’t as simple as they used to be. Or perhaps they’re just as simple as they’ve always been.

Sports are supposed to be fun and that’s it.

If you’re looking for me after the game I’ll be firing up the bus.

Jon Show lives in Robbins Park with his wife, who he calls “The Mother of Dragons.” Their 10-year-old son is “Future Man” and their 7-year-old daughter is “The Blonde Bomber.” Their dog is actually named Lightning.