Helping Your Child Choose a Sport
by Ashley Eiler
As a mother in this generation, there is so much pressure to provide a perfect experience for each of our children during their childhood. Not only are we faced with social media presence to remind us that we do or don’t have a certain talent, but we are constantly faced with the idea that our children need to have a perfect upbringing filled with tons of parental involvement. There are so many articles to suggest it, pressure from friends (mostly innocent), and countless other reminders that our children are watching and soaking in our every move.
The pressure to offer soft words and patient answers, a perfect dinner, and not to mention the notion that all kids must be good at sports. I would offer that those things might just be the culture we find ourselves in – and we must have the courage to be different.
I don’t mean different from what is great and good, I mean the courage NOT to look around, but rather turn our eyes UP.
Many years ago, my daughter started gymnastics with me at the age of 2.5 in a mommy and me class. I chose to take her because she was obviously full of energy and tended to constantly be upside down.
You may be asking why this matters today? It matters because as mothers – we are to help children find their place. Both of my children found their sport quickly and with little hesitation at the beginning. For our family and experience, sports allows our children to be active in hopes of helping them to stay healthy – but also to teach life lessons early. Lessons that will equip them as adults.
One of my biggest fears for my children is that they will not know that life is HARD until they leave our roof. Sometimes our children don’t experience life fully – because we offer such protection as parents. Regardless of what is going on in our adult life – sometimes we protect our children fully from those realities (that is not always the case). What if school things come easily (learning and friends), home life is without life-altering events, and even the peripheral things of childhood are without turmoil?
I pray that God protects my children from those things, but what if they don’t experience the necessity of working hard, working through, and working for? Sports has taught (and is still teaching) both of my children:
to work hard when no one is watching
to complete tasks fully
to interact with adults when given admonition or correction (HUGE!!)
and countless other things
So as a mother of two athletes of different sports with different challenges, I have the opportunities to encourage them alongside of their experiences outside of our home. Sometimes, it is just plain difficult in the sport and the disappointments that follow. They learn compassion in walking alongside of others in their disappointments. They also learn how to move through life with time management and nutrition. Facing fear is a big issue in sports, and fear is something each of us face as adults. All of these lessons will be incredibly beneficial when they encounter things like marriage, raising children, difficult workplaces or bosses, unfair friendships, and overlooked abilities in different circumstances. Anything you can think of comes back to learning how to work hard at something that doesn’t always pay off.
My 12-year-old is involved in swimming. I want to be careful because my children are not “a swimmer” or “a gymnast” but rather a child that swims or a child that tumbles. I am careful to remind them however demanding their sport and however they succeed or don’t – that is not who they are. I strive to teach them who their are in Christ aside from anything they are involved in.
I urge you to take an honest look at your children and how God gifted them. If we can step back, I truly believe you can give them a great opportunity to tap into something that may be different than each of their friends. It may not be sports. But, if it is, I beg of you to take an eternal approach with teaching in mind, overlook the sport sometimes because it is just a sport, and focus on what the end result should be.
I pray that my children will learn that they are loved by God for:
– exactly how HE made them (not what a coached turned them into)
– exactly how HE gifted them (so that they have a platform perhaps for the future to bring more people to know and love God)
– a grateful appreciation for the hard work that sometimes gives great reward (for which they turn their thanksgiving to Jesus not pride in themselves).
a mother of precious children
Ashley – thank you for this wise perspective. Mine are just finding their way with sports and this is so helpful! Love your precious family.
I think we would all benefit from more conversations around this topic. Your approach and perspective are so well-stated here. Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts! Choosing a sport/activity is a great ‘arena’ to study and learn your children and guide them with regard to their natural talents and interests.
Thanks for your encouraging words. I too have one child active in swimming and another active in gymnastics. Though it can be hard at times it is very rewarding for them.