I get to spend a great part of my day making a difference in the daily lives of our kids. Yes, influencing MY kids of course, everyday, but also hundreds of kids that step onto our fields all with one consistent hope – to play and have fun. The more time goes by, it continues be clear to me. It really CAN be easy to work with them, teach them, “deal with them” (as I hear many parents verbalize). Some parents may think I am crazy.
Let’s face it, anyone who claims it is easy to raise a child IS crazy. Well that is not what I am saying… What I am saying is that kids are simple, they really just want to play. THEY WANT TO PLAY WITH THE BALL!
In today’s world where distraction is at your fingertips, and the world of images and graphics are everywhere, I often try to go back and think, “how did I entertain myself when I was a kid? What kind of toys did I have?” And then my mind takes me directly to MY present day and I compare my childhood with the way my 3 boys are being raised. Again, it comes down to simplicity, it all goes BACK TO THE BALL!
Nowadays we see parents worried about a variety of activities to keep their children active and social, but then they give them an iPad at dinner. Consequently, as a child, I relate that if I don’t behave at dinner I get to watch youtube on my iPad or other electronic device. Or could it be that my parents don’t care to talk with me so they always have a sitter; the device. Now, at that point as a child I go into a whole other world, ignoring the people I am “live” and present with, and the last thing I am aware of is the family time and conversations during the dinner. I am not valued enough, or need to, share my successes or failures of the day, I just dive into a megapixel 4G, LTE world, and no one bothers me. It is the reality of the culture today. They are kids and they want to be loved, feel safe and have fun. Do they still find their FUN in the little round object that brings kids together around the world? Or, is his or her fun found solely in their electronics and then great pressure in their real world and youth sports participation? Makes you think.
In my experience working with children in Youth Sports, I also see a lot of parents trying to relive their own glory days through their child. Has anyone ever asked that child, if he or she even likes the sport they are in? Trust me I had a lot that didn’t! More than I care to discuss in this writing.
The pressure is too much. The work is too much. My parents push me too hard, or my coach only cares about winning. Those were the top answered questions on a survey held by a group of students at Harvard University, on why kids quit sports. I wonder, and ask myself, “Can we just GIVE THEM THE BALL, and let them have some fun”?
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a great Soccer Coaches Symposium, and the Academy Director for one of largest Clubs in Europe, got on stage, with a soccer ball in his arms, of course, you may be thinking, that is what we are here to talk about, Right? Wrong! He wanted to show us how simple it is to make a child happy.
He asked us to reflect with him, think about you going into the park with your child, you bring a ball with you, any sport for that matter, if you are a basketball player you shoot, if you are a soccer player you play, if you have a GOAL you shoot, if you play baseball you catch, and the list just goes on and on. It is Simple! Children likes simple and enjoy being simple. Just let them PLAY WITH THE BALL! There are many sports that revolve around the simplicity of the ball. My question to all parents of kids in youth sports today, “is your child choosing what ball they want to play with or are YOU choosing their ball of play?”
I then leave the meeting and start browsing in instagram, what do I see? 9-12 years athletes doing weight training, push ups, pull ups, sprints etc…I ask myself what about the Ball? I go back the the European presenter working and developing youth talent for years, and ask: Why are we doing this to our children, what is right or wrong?
The older European Legend, looks at me and asks, “Where are you from”? I answered “originally from Brazil”. He continues, “Do you know why we go to Brazil and spend fortunes buying players there?” “No” I hesitated. “Because there, they just worry about the ball, and they make everything a ball. The same way that Michael Jordan had amazing skills, the Brazilian players have some that is unteachable. Today in all Sports we have the fastest and strongest players, but they can’t control the ball, so if I had to give you an advice young coach, Just Give them the ball my friend!”
And with that, it really is simple…Just give them the ball!