Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Car Ride Home

I spent my day watching a lot of amazing girls play hockey at a level higher than I ever reached as they participated in the Female World Sport School Challenge. These girls are amazingly gifted, but hockey is a sport in which there are winners and losers with nothing in between. Most of these girls had parents in the stands, and that means there was a good chance most of the parents would have driven their children to the rink and home from the rink. While doubt they got "the talk" on the way home, most kids do have some sort of conversation about the game when they're younger. Here's where the stats go off the rails.

70% of kids quit sports before high school. Seventy percent. Say those two words out loud: seventy percent. That's seven in ten kids who quit sports before they hit high school. Why do they quit, you ask? The top reason, according to True Sport, is that sports aren't fun any longer. And the place where kids hear it most is usually during the car ride home.

The video below might be hard to watch for parents, but this sort of things happens daily at fields, rinks, and courts all over our great nation. It needs to be watched, though, so that one can see the negative impact it has on the young boy. Watch the video below, and we'll pick up the discussion below it.
Pretty brutal, right? That happens all over our country, and I hope the impact of that video gets into your head if you're a parent.

"I would be one of the classic parents — you know, [the kids] hop in the car at the end of a game and they didn't know they should be miserable until I told them," Michael Langlois, a sports consultant who has worked with amateur and pro coaches and teams, told CBC's Jamie Strashin. "I regret that as a dad. But I think it's something a lot of us need to acknowledge. The car ride home shouldn't be miserable for kids."

The message seen at the end of the video reads, "You need to take a good hard look at yourself." It's a message that True Sport hopes to push on parents so that more kids will remain in sport throughout and past high school. Remove the pressures of winning and let kids play. Let them have fun! And don't trap them in the car with negativity about the game they just played.

"You are inside of this capsule where you are stuck for a period of time, so I think it's an excellent opportunity for you as a parent to ask some questions in a gentle way about how things went," Dr. Penny Werthner, a former Olympian who has spent 30 years studying sport and psychology, told Strashin.

"That opens up the door for them to start the conversation and tell you as a parent what they are feeling, what they are frustrated about, what they are thinking. That provides you with an opportunity to then come back and start giving some direction."

There have been a number of parents and athletes who have reached out to lend support to True Sport's initiative. Some of the notable names are:
  • Ken and Arlene Olynyk - parents to NBA star Kelly Olynyk, Saskatchewan Huskies basketball player Maya Olynyk, and BC rugby player Jesse Olynyk.
  • Keith Wilkinson - father of Canadian soccer star Rhian Wilkinson.
  • Jan Scott - mother of Olympic cross-country gold medallist skier Beckie Scott.
  • Rosemary Brydon - mother of former Olympic downhill skier Emily Brydon.
We have to remember that our kids are having fun out there. Win, lose, or draw, they're playing a sport they love and enjoy doing, and parents should be supporting them in their endeavors and worrying less about performances.

"It was really important to not talk about it until she opened up the conversation," Rosemary recalled to Strashin. "We never asked her. If it was a bad result, we'd steer clear, she would find us when she was ready. They have to absorb what happened and how they are going to cope with it."

"After a race, Emily came up to us and said, 'I'm really glad that you are my parents.' And we went, 'Why?' And she said, 'You don't care if I win or lose.' That's my favourite story."

Enterprise Rent-A-Car leapt at the opportunity to help True Sport. Getting that kind of support is amazing for this initiative, and I commend Enterprise for getting involved. They produced a great message, so, if the first video made you sad, this one should pick you up a little.

Remember that it's just a game. You want to see your kids playing and having fun, so don't turn it into a chore. They'll find a way to succeed if they feel they're supported, but I've seen too many kids drop out of sports because it became a job with the stress and pressures of winning. Sports is about playing and participating instead of about worrying about the scholarships and scouts. The elite in every sport will get a shot, but for most of our kids they'll just continue to play like we do in our beer league softball and hockey leagues because we have fun. It's all about having fun for 99% of our children.

So please, I beg of you, don't lose sight of what's important when it comes to your child's happiness. You're their number-one fans. Support them as you would your professional sports idols.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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