Masks are abundant on Halloween. And I believe they are also everywhere in youth sports.
I’m not talking about pitching masks, or football masks or lacrosse masks or hockey masks. But emotional masks, masks that are hiding something kids don’t want their parents or coaches to know about. With 30-40 million kids playing youth sports each year, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that a good number of those athletes are wearing masks.
Take an honest look at your children. I know you love them and want the best for them, but can you try to look at them with objectivity just for a minute? Do you see them wearing any of these masks?
The Brave Mask
This is the child who refuses to show any fear or trepidation about playing a sport or a certain position because he or she doesn’t want to be considered a wimp. This is the child who pushes the fear down inside before every game because he wants to please the coach and parents.
Can you tell if your child is putting on a brave front? If you sense fear, take time to address it and let your child know it’s okay to be afraid. Fear is not something to be ignored; it is something to be faced. You can help him face it; and if that fear is simply insurmountable, then maybe it’s time to take a step back from the sport and let your child work on conquering smaller fears before confronting the big one again.
The I-Could-Care-Less Mask
This is the child who laughs when he strikes out to show that it really doesn’t bother him. This is the child who jokes after the game even when he was humiliated because he sat on the bench most of the time.
Sometimes kids think that admitting they care is a sign of weakness. It’s not cool to look like you care too much.
You may not be able to remove this mask for your child, but it’s okay to lovingly acknowledge that you understand if he is frustrated and you’re there if he wants to talk. Knowing that you love and support him irregardless of his performance or playing time may help him to have the courage to take this mask off and be honest about how he feels and what he wants to do about it.
The I-Love-Being-a-Jock Mask
This is the kid who acts like he wants to play, or at least he shows up and plays, because he knows it makes Mom and Dad happy. This is the athlete who would rather be doing something else but pretends to love the jock life because just can’t stand the thought of letting his parents down.
Every now and then it’s good to have a hard conversation with your child. Do you really want to play this sports? Because you don’t have to, you know. Is there something else you’d rather be doing?
The Arrogant Mask
This is the kid who knows he is darn good, or thinks he is. Whether or not he is skilled is not the point; the issue is that he is so insecure he feeds on the approval of others and wants to keep trying to get that approval by reminding people just how good he is.
This is the kid who is defining himself by his athleticism, perceived or not. He thinks this is how he will win approval from peers, coaches and parents. What he doesn’t realize is that his arrogance is not a magnet; it’s a repellant.
We All Wear Masks
I believe we all wear masks at one time or another. But my desire for myself and for our kids growing up was to do away with the need for masks that covered how we really felt. That means we must show acceptance and love even when the ugly and less desirable parts of our personalities surface. Love your children through and through and hopefully they will be throwing those masks in the garbage.