“Failure is nothing more than a chance to revise your strategy.”
The time that organized youth sports began for me was the same time that I felt my life was over. My first and best friend, Barbara, and I had shared many hobbies, pastimes, and dreams in the elementary school years. One of our great aspirations was to cheer for and support our neighborhood school Isaac Litton. Although my dad encouraged me to go to an all-girls school across town, I never even entertained the possibility. It was Litton High forever, and when we finally made it to seventh grade, the excitement accelerated.
Cheerleading tryouts came and went without a single thought that my dream of wearing the red sweater vest with that huge white “L”, pleated blue wool skirt, saddle oxfords, with shakers and a megaphone might not be realized. When tryout day came, all the hopeful participants performed in front of the student body. Having waited throughout the day for the results to be announced, finally over a crackling loud speaker, we listened intently for the principal to read the list. Although Barbara’s and several other of my friends’ names were called, the list ended too abruptly…my name had not been among them.
For a thirteen-year old girl, disappointments can be devastating, especially when there is no alternate plan. I spent several afternoons of tearful silence in my bedroom. My sweet mom would stick her head in to check on me, but then she would carry on with the business of life. That was a huge lesson modeled for me. The message was that my hurt would pass, and things would at some point be normal again. No panic or despair or drama from her. Eventually I emerged from my room and rejoined the world, which had not stopped turning.
Since then, as an athletic director, I have related this personal story to many parents in preparation for school team tryouts. I can see it in their eyes, just like mine, there is not one doubt that their child’s dream will be realized…until it isn’t. Not everyone’s story is the same. That is the beauty and mystery of watching your child’s uniqueness unfold.
Thankfully my story does not end there. My math teacher was also the girls’ basketball coach. In PE class, it had been noted that I was speedy; the coach must have been recruiting when he asked me if I was planning to try out for the team. At first, I was flattered, but then the full weight of “what if I don’t make it” hit me. I told him I would think about it. I will be honest, I was fast but I couldn’t dribble or shoot very well. Thankfully my quickness, defense and rebounding were valued by the coach. This story ends happily or I wouldn’t be sharing it, and I made the team. As they say, one door slammed shut but another door opened.
Basketball for me was the single greatest outlet and pastime throughout my developmental years in junior and high school. I even continued playing in Nursing School. I was never happier than on a court whether it be a pick up game or a tournament competition. I feel like it was what God intended for me, and I loved it. It was the beginning of organized sports in my life; and since then, I have been a sports enthusiast, whether as a participant, fan, parent, coach or administrator. So many of life’s lessons I have learned from the ups and downs of the game.
I am convinced that every child, every young athlete has his own unique story. God oversees the unpacking of the aptitudes and attractions for specific sports activities. Your job as a parent is to provide opportunities for them to sample, patiently observe, provide experience, wisdom and perspective, and empower your son or daughter to find their story. It will be worth the disappointments along the way.
Immersed in youth sports as an athlete, a mom, a coach, and an athletic administrator, it's my deep desire to encourage parents as they encounter all the "fun challenges" of their children's youth sports journeys. By the way, all the members of my clan played sports in college and beyond, most likely in spite of my parenting strategies. However, I will admit to my own missteps, so that you won't have to learn the key to real youth sports success the hard way as I did. Every child can be successful!
View all posts by Betty Ann Santi