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August 2, 2019
Purpose > Feelings
Champion sports parents recognize that they’ve been called to some important work. Sure, sports can and should benefit our kids in the here and now – should help them get in shape, have some fun, and hopefully experience the satisfaction that comes alongside achievement. But champion parents recognize that the sports experience isn’t just about the here and now. It’s also about the future. Sports can and should be used to train, prepare, and equip our kids for success beyond the game, in the "there and then" of who they become long after their playing days are done. The impact of the experience shouldn’t end with today; it should benefit our kids for life. That’s the important work – the deeper purpose – that sets the champion sports parent apart.

In order to fulfill that purpose ourselves, we must be thoughtful and intentional. There are plenty of characteristics we can develop in our kids through sports, characteristics that are directly connected to excellence in any area of life. Passion and effort and toughness are some. A teachable spirit, a sense of selflessness, and a positive attitude are others, to name a few. When a parent uses their child’s playing experience to cultivate these qualities, they are actively embracing the process of building a winner for life. They’re tapping into that deeper purpose.

When you stop and think about it, it’s obvious that using sports to prepare our kids for life is meaningful and important work. I think most sports parents would agree that that should be a priority – if not the priority – of this whole experience. But sadly, many of us are missing out on that deeper purpose that sports can and should provide. Why? Because all too often, unfortunately, we let our feelings get in the way.
Sadly, many of us are missing out on that deeper purpose that sports can and should provide. Why? Because all too often, unfortunately, we let our feelings get in the way.
The truth is that sometimes struggle or challenge becomes a part of our child’s experience, and when it does, our negative emotions can easily get the best of us. In reality, that struggle or challenge presents for us a great opportunity to cultivate our child’s toughness – something they desperately need in order to become their best – if we use it the right way. Instead, though, seeing our child in a tough spot has a tendency to bring our feelings to the forefront, and in doing so, to push that purpose to the background. Instead of seeing this challenge as a chance for our child to learn, we usually put our defenses up and go into protection mode. We work hard to shield our kids from the struggle. We make excuses for why it exists, we blame others for what’s happened, and we promote in ourselves and in our kids a victim mindset. Unfortunately, we allow how we feel in the moment to distract us from the opportunity that's been offered.

Ironically, in the same way, our positive feelings can get the best of us, too. If we aren’t careful, we can get so caught up in the thrill of winning that we lose focus on what's really important – developing a winner. Hall of Fame football coach John Madden called winning “a great deodorant.” That means our kids might stink in many of those important areas we said defines a champion (effort, or toughness, or attitude, for instance) but we allow the positive emotion that comes with winning to mask those shortcomings. Just as our kids can come up short but still compete like champions, our kids can win a game but still play like losers. If we allow the euphoria of winning to distract us from seeing the truth about our kids, we miss out on an opportunity to hold them to a higher standard of behavior, and help them improve for next time.

So here’s my challenge for you today: intentionally prioritize your purpose ahead of your feelings. Decide before you ever find yourself in a competitive, emotional moment who exactly it is that you want to be, and what exactly it is that you want to make important. If you wait to decide, and then try to manage your priorities once you’re in the moment, it’ll be harder to keep those priorities in line. Most importantly, don’t allow how you feel – good or bad – to distract you from your deeper purpose, the real reason you’re here: to raise and develop a champion today, on the playing field and beyond. 

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