Last Mother’s Day, a local news station aired an interview with Connie Watt, co-founder and vice president of the JJ Watt Foundation and mother to not one, not two, but three amazing sons. I decided to reach out to her over the July 4th weekend and explain to her the purpose of the “Game Day” series, and ask if she would like to be a part of it.
She responded enthusiastically three days later.
You see, as mom to JJ, Derek, and TJ, she’s seen a lot both on the field and in the stands. She knows what it’s like to watch your child win, lose and get injured. She knows the pressure that well-meaning parents put on their kids, and she has a message we can all take to heart — whether or not our kids ever play in the big leagues. Her letter exemplifies Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
The Watts work hard, train hard, and play hard. There is no secret to their successful family, no magic potion or pill. At the end of the day, though, they have realized what constitutes true success — and it’s less what happens out on the field and more what happens around the home. I hope you are encouraged by her wise words in this season’s final installment of “Game Day.”
As a Mom to three athletic boys who started playing sports at the young age of 4, I can tell you it is a gift. Playing sports and being part of teams is a great opportunity for kids. However, don’t dismiss the good old-fashioned game of catch, horse, or family soccer in the backyard.
Today more than ever it seems parents are dropping kids off at practices and games and when they get home they turn to electronics rather than that quality time with the family. We spent every day possible playing some sort of sport out in the backyard with the boys and their friends. Playing for the fun of it still teaches them techniques, but our kids and their friends have told us some of the best memories they have are of these simple experiences. I can’t say it enough to parents; the best gift you can give your child is your TIME.
Sports teach SO much more than scoring goals or how to win and lose. It teaches character traits, accountability, teamwork, and perseverance just to name a few. These traits will serve kids well in their lives long after little league comes to an end. Teach your kids the importance of getting enough sleep, eating well, hydrating, and being a good teammate. Most of all, support them, encourage them and give them resources and assistance if they need help.
Recognize your child’s talent and don’t expect an NBA player ability out of your 8-year-old. For every great player in your district, there are hundreds out there in other districts. Yes, some kids are fortunate to make it at 12, but most don’t. Just encourage them.
Let the coaches coach the kids. Coaches are only able to work with the child and their ability. You don’t know what goes on in practice so if you see your child not playing enough, ask your child first. Don’t go scream at the coach or yell that another child should be pulled and they should put your child in. There are so many things that go into what a coach does that parents may not know about. By 6th-8th grades, the coaches would prefer the child (not the parents) come to them and ask what they can do to get more playing time. Teach your child to find his or her voice and talk to the coach.
JJ’s motto is “Dream Big Work Hard.” A coach is just that — a coach. The coach can’t make your child work harder, run faster, etc. That has to come from the kid. The coach is there to coach an entire team, not just your child. Remember that when you’re frustrated in the stands. They are giving up so much of their time and providing a great opportunity for your kids. Thank them, appreciate them, and enjoy the games.
When I speak to the middle school kids we provide funding to, I tell them to be a great teammate. If someone on their team makes an error that person knows it and feels bad. They don’t need the other members of the team getting on them and making them feel worse. Instead, they should say ‘shake it off’ and ‘let’s get it back’ or whatever the case may be, and the teammate is more likely to work harder.
As parents, positive coaching and encouragement is key, without leading your child to believe they are the star player if they are really third string. The team is made up of various talent. It’s no different than a corporation with a CEO, a CFO, and all the way down to the person who answers the phone. It takes a TEAM to win the game or make a business successful.
Work to help your child be as successful as they can be, don’t force them to be something they may not ever become. Give them realistic goals and enjoy the time. I have seen many kids lose the opportunity to play due to injury, so please don’t take this time for granted. You can’t get it back and they do remember it! Enjoy the journey and spend TIME with your child. After the game, talk about what they did well and what they should work on. Then, have dinner as a family and continue creating that bond that grows stronger and stronger!
Proud Mom to 3 absolutely amazing sons,