Great Expectations

One of my favorite things to do during soccer season is being a referee for our 3 and 4 year olds. Hearing them laugh and play makes me happy. I enjoy watching the parents. They try not to laugh as their child trips over the ball. They clap when their child kicks the ball, turns and looks at them for approval. They cheer even when their child scores on the wrong goal! But the moment that touches me most is when a parent walks onto the field, scoops up their child who is frozen in place or crying and holds them in their lap on the sideline telling them, “Its O.K. You don’t have to play today.” … and it is O.K. They are, after all, just little kids.

Children love and need to play. Learning to follow rules, work with other people, take instruction and even criticism is part of our development that thrives in an atmosphere of sports. But I know many adults (myself included) that struggle with some of these concepts, especially our response to criticism. A harsh word from a friend, co-worker, supervisor, or family member can ruin an entire day! On those days, I’m just like that child playing soccer. I wish I could curl up in my Mom’s arms and hear her tell me everything will be O.K.

This past Saturday I sat in a gym from 9 am until 4 pm watching second grade boys play basketball. Like the 3 and 4 year olds, some of these players were very good, some of them had a skill I would expect of the age, and some of them had no clue. Once again, we are talking about children, but the expectation from coaches and parents was quite different. They wanted and expected more.

After one of the games I heard a parent speaking to his child. Some of the things he said to his son as they left the gym included: “I told you to dribble… I called out for you to block that kid… I told you to shoot…” The child looked at his dad and said, “Dad, its O.K. I was just playing with my friends.”

Letitia Green

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