Missing the Goal, Sept. 27

I'm a competitive person...just ask my husband. I love to watch college football, and must admit to getting a little overexcited sometimes. But at a recent kindergarten soccer game, I found myself wondering where to draw the line between wanting to win and just enjoying the game. Maybe we as parents are missing "the goal."

My 5-year-old daughter just started kindergarten this fall. She's a very spirited kid and is always excited for new adventures. So, I looked into activities that would be fun and give her some exercise, too.

Soccer is a new sport for Olivia this year. I try to limit my kids to only a couple of activities. I feel the focus should be on school, and I don't want them or myself to get burned out. (Look for a future blog on over-booking kids.)

Fall is the perfect time to watch a soccer game...the colorful leaves, the cool, crisp air, and sometimes a few overzealous parents? Hmm...I'm not sure why I'm surprised by this last addition to my list. I like sports. I get a little crazy watching football. And I remember getting mildly upset when my little brother didn't get a base hit in a baseball game. Why should I be surprised by some boisterous parents cheering for a goal?

Maybe because we're missing "the goal."

Now that I'm a parent, I see the importance of knowing when and why to cheer at a kid's game. The goal is FUN.

What does Olivia like most about her soccer games? She probably likes the snacks and drinks after the game, the practice time before the game, and the actual game...in that order. She's only five. And she wants to play.

I commend her coach for making the practice time fun. The girls play games like freeze tag. One player is "it." This player then touches another and freezes her. But if an unfrozen player kicks the ball through the legs of a frozen player, she is unfrozen and free to run around again. A cute game that secretly teaches some soccer techniques.

It's when the actual game starts that it gets interesting. Parents become competitive and the cheering begins. I'm amazed at how some girls have taken to the game already. Maybe they played last spring, or maybe their parents or older siblings help them at home. Whatever the answer, there are girls who are pretty aggressive and know how to score goals.

One little girl hopped over to her dad during the game saying that she'd scored three goals. Her dad replied, "Maybe you should let some other girls score."

And during one game, a grandparent asked me what the score was. She was babysitting and needed to tell the parents the final score. I thought it was like 5-1.

"Oh, you kind of feel bad for the other team," she said. "Now, you hope they could score a point." She didn't know I was associated with the opposing team.

I've heard other parents comment on how they really get into the game and how their daughter was the best player last spring, but now other kids are catching on.

Sure, as parents, we all want our children to do their best. But isn't there a line between being too competitive and just cheering even if you're losing?

I think we need to let kids be little kids. There's a time when sports become competitive, but let's hold off on that time.

I heard a TV sportscaster once say that he didn't let his kids play sports until they were 10. Wow! This is coming from a guy who loves sports! I think he saw what too much competition at too young of an age can do to kids and parents. I think most little kids don't even understand competition. They understand fun.

So at the start of the game, we always need to keep the true goal in mind. Why do we put our little kids in athletic activities? Is it for the exercise, for the love of the sport, and for the opportunity to grow and improve? I hope so.

Happy Parenting!


About the Author...
Taryn Vanderford
Taryn Vanderford is an Emmy-winning journalist who currently works on "First at Four", "Pure Nebraska" and "Moms Everyday" for 10/11 and Gray Television.

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