Keeping Things In Perspective In Youth Sports

When done right, athletics can offer a lot of positives.
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After she collided with the other player, she hit the ground hard. I waited for the tears, but she popped right back up. Her crimson hair, tied in a low ponytail, bobbled behind her as she chased down the girl who took the ball.

This past June, my daughter was really sick. She was struck with a horrible kidney infection that required a five-day hospital stay. They were some of the scariest days of my life.

It took Vivien a while to rebound. Over the summer she wasn’t her usual chipper self. She seemed irritable and off. She couldn’t swim and was afraid to participate in any physical activities because of a PICC line that provided the necessary medicine to get rid of the infection.

Needless to say, I was worried about her. Vivi is normally a tough kid. She once landed on her head, falling from the top of the jungle gym. I was terrified as I lay on the gurney with her as we waited to see if she had bleeding on the brain. A year after the head injury, Vivi fell again, this time breaking her left arm. She didn’t even cry until they did the X-rays. During flu shots, while her older brother typically screams, Vivi gives the nurse the stink eye instead.

When we started soccer this fall, for the first time I was over-protective of her.

I could finally breathe after the first time she played goalie and survived. Goalie is a position where collisions, getting kicked by a cleat or taking a hard shot off your body are probably going to happen.

When the game ended and Vivi said she loved playing goalie, then went on to request the net all season, I knew my girl was back.

Vivien getting sick brought me clarity. Too often, youth sports has become sour with parents trying to lobby their kids to get on the “right” team. It’s become a place driven by adult egos, with sight completely lost on who sports are supposed to benefit. The kids.

I’m guilty of getting caught up in the silliness of things, too. I tend to get more upset, however, when there isn’t equal playing time, or a coach isn’t bringing a team together, instead has they have their own agenda as to why they signed up for the job in the first place.

When done right, athletics can offer a lot of positives. They teach teamwork, fair play, exposure to new friends/teammates, how to lose graciously, how to stay humble in a win and exercise to keep bodies strong.

For me this fall, watching my daughter rebound and have a healthy outlet to find her confidence again was wonderful. Each week she got stronger and more sure of herself.

That’s what the spirit of youth sports is supposed to be all about. I’ll take Vivien getting up after taking a hit on the soccer field over battling an infection in the hospital any day.

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