Monday, June 10, 2013

Enjoying Your Kid's Triathlon

The inspiration for this post came from a recent experience, but as you will soon see, it is not limited just to triathlons...

Been there.  Done that!  I was once "that" soccer dad.

Which one you may be asking?  Or if you saw me at the sidelines of my daughter's first travel soccer game, you know which "that" I'm talking about.

I knew "everything" there was to know about soccer, and I knew what was best for my daughter, or rather I thought I knew what was best for my daughter... on the soccer field.

Never mind the fact that the expert, or coach, was on the other side of the field.  Never mind the fact that she had spent countless hours at practice, honing in on skills they were trying to improve at these games.  But NOOOOO... I knew what she needed to do and I was not shy about telling her so.

Stay with me.  I'll get to the point.

That is until the very first "travel" game ever.  As I was standing on the sideline, yelling instructions to my daughter, a much wiser man came up and stood next to me.  At first I thought he was going to punch me in the face or something.  But then suddenly, he leaned over and in a very quiet, unassuming voice said:  "Let her play.  She's a good player.  She'll make the right choices."

WOW... I remember this like it was yesterday.

I pondered upon this for a long time and the message was received loud and clear.  I must say, without a doubt in my mind, that I never, ever again yelled a word of "instruction" to my daughter on the field.  As a matter of fact, I learned later from her then head coach, that the one thing she did want to hear from me, but only after the game, was "I'm proud of the way you played" and / or "I enjoyed watching you play today."  This I did until she played her last College game!

Still with me?

A few weeks ago we volunteered at the Nashville Kids Triathlon, along with my wife, daughter and a host of local triathlete friends.  This was one of the most exiting and uplifting experiences in a long time.

The kids, ALL of the them were awesome.  You could tell they were nervous, apprehensive, full of questions and some doubt.  They were there, as most of us are at all triathlons, for a variety of reasons.  The skill levels were also as varied as there were athletes.  Yes, I do call them athletes because that's what they are.  And then there were the parents.  Not all of the parents.  Some of the parents.

The kids were guided inside the transition area by volunteers. The parents were asked to wait outside. Most, if not all, of these volunteers have experience in the world of triathlons.  Several have completed Ironman distances.  Yes, this expertise was there for the kids.  We each took one young triathlete at a time and guided them to their very own personal space within the transition area.  We spent time answering questions, giving light instructions, calming nerves and listening to stories of importance, at that moment, to the kids.

But as you can probably conclude by now, there was "that" parent on the sideline.  Yelling, screaming and giving last minute instructions to their sons and daughters.  Some were telling the volunteers how they wanted their kid's transition are to be set up.  Some of these parents were not going to hear any different. We just knew that if we did not follow the yelled instructions, it would be the kid that would pay the price later.  So, for the most part, we obliged.

I know, like I knew back then, that the parents mean well.  They want whats best for their sons and daughters.

So in order to Enjoy your Kid's Triathlon to the max, here's a tip or two:

*  Let go, sit back and relax.  Your young offspring knows what he/she needs to do.
*  Let the Volunteers do their job.  They have hundreds of hours and thousands of miles of experience.  They're here because they want to pass this along.
*  Did I mention to Let go, sit back and relax?  From first hand experience, I can tell you that you will make better memories, if you just Let go, sit back and relax!

Those of you that know me, know that sitting back and keeping quiet at the soccer games must have been quiet the challenge.  But it really wasn't.  I also realized very quickly that attitudes on the sideline are contagious.  Not all parents get it, some parents still yelled.  So I found my way to my very own private world on the field and luckily there I also developed on of the very best soccer friendships ever

Gordon and I would sit in the corner of the field.  At half time, we would fold up our chairs and move to the other corner.  This we did for some four years.  We would discuss, but not solve, all the problems of the world. We would tell stories and just enjoy the game. We would wear our Columbia Sun Hats because we knew it embarrassed our daughters. And yes... we found that yelling at the referees was a whole lot more fun than yelling at our daughters.  We would, of course, disagree with every call he made, we would tell him what he missed and what he did wrong.  I think that maybe just once, we told him what a great job he did. I miss you Gordon!

Find yourself a "partner" in crime.  Someone you can rely on to keep you straight and off the yelling path.  This too, will allow you to Enjoy Your Kids Triathlon.

Footnote... This advise, I dare to say, would apply to any and all sports your sons and daughters are involved in.  So, please heed the advise and enjoy!