I grew up playing, and loving, Fastpitch softball. So naturally, I’d make my daughters play. Yes, I said “make.” Why? Because my dad made me play. You see, I loved basketball, but he signed me up for softball. Seeing as how I’m only 5’2″, that was probably a great decision on his part, but still, I was not a happy camper. I mean, “soft” ball doesn’t even sound sporty or tough. It sounds wimpy which was not cool with me.
Then I started playing, and fell completely in love with it. As a parent I decided my daughters didn’t have a choice. Whether wanted to or not, they were going to try fastpitch, at least once. Just like me. After that, the choice was theirs, but every one of them would give fastpitch softball at least one good try. Thankfully, my oldest daughter loves it!
My second daughter, on the other hand, just didn’t dig it as much. She did keep playing but mostly because she really enjoyed the social aspect of it. She never showed the same enthusiasm for the game itself as her older sister.
This frustrated me.
Not because her participation wasn’t good enough. Not because I wanted her to play that badly. Not just because I wanted her to love the game like I did. Mostly because she had better size and was much more naturally skilled at it than her sister, but possessed nowhere near the drive and determination to be really awesome at it!
We often told her that she could be even better than her sister if only she tried as hard. Other instructors and clinicians told her the same thing, but nothing ever changed. Not even the thought of being the best in the family made her want it more.
As parents, my husband and I really didn’t know what to do. Her attitude toward fastpitch was just so foreign to us. Was our daughter really going to waste all her natural talent and athletic ability? Would she end up like so many gifted athletes who never reach their full potential simply because they’re lazy?
We tried everything we could think of to motivate her. We tried different approaches to bring out the drive in her we hoped was just hiding somewhere inside her. But no matter what we did, it never showed up.
It’s not that she didn’t care. It’s not that she didn’t want to do well. She cared about how she did and didn’t like when she didn’t perform well. She just never seemed interested in going the extra mile to make the most of her talents.
What were we doing wrong? Nothing seemed to work. We felt so out of touch with how to parent her as an athlete.
My husband and I both grew up in competitive athletics. We both had drive and determination the sports we played. Our oldest daughter had it too. How did we end up with a child that didn’t seem to have any of it despite her obvious physical ability?
It was frustrating for us. It was frustrating for her too.
After a few years, my husband and I began thinking our daughter really was one of those talented, but lazy athletes. It was not a nice thought, but what else could it be? We continued trying to figure her out. How could we get her to “get it?” There had to be a way.
Then something really, really strange happened.
My husband and I realized we were dead wrong about her. Our seemingly unmotivated daughter wasn’t completely lazy after all. In fact, she really did have all the determination, drive, competitiveness, and aggressiveness we’d been looking for. We were just looking in the wrong place.
We assumed she’d have it on the diamond because I had it on the diamond, her sister had it on the diamond, and she had the talent for it, but we were wrong. What she lacks in effort and determination and drive on the diamond, she has in the boxing ring and in crossfit training. The difference was like night and day.
At first we wondered if it was just the excitement of something new. However, after months of training, we realized it wasn’t just a phase. Every day, she wanted to train. Every day, she pushed herself. Every day, she listened to her coaches and learned as much as she could. She gladly took advantage of extra opportunities to train and improve her skills. She looked forward to both training and competition with excitement. She steadily got better and better as she trained with a focus and intensity we never saw on the diamond.
What an amazingly eye-opening experience for me as a sports parent. Our daughter wasn’t lazy or unmotivated after all. We just had her focused on the “wrong” thing. Once we found the “right” thing for her, everything became easier for everyone. I almost cried with both relief and joy for her when I realized she finally found her love. As her mom, I was so happy she finally found something she could call her own; something she loved, something she enjoyed, and something she excelled in.
No more nagging about effort. No more dragging her to practice. No more “pushing” her during training until we all get frustrated. Now she reminds us about practice and training sessions. Now she pushes herself harder and farther than we ever would. When she does get off track here and there, it’s easy to nudge her back on because it’s what SHE wants to do. Now our job is simply cheering her on, encouraging her, and recognizing and celebrating her progress and accomplishments with her. It’s so much fun!
As a sports parent, your ultimate challenge is helping your child find THEIR thing, the thing they love and were meant to do. It might be a sport. It might not be. Help them find that thing they can pour their heart and soul into because they want to. The rewards for you both will be so amazingly fulfilling.