Caring is giving love and attention to people and things that matter to you. When you care about people, you help them. You do a careful job, giving your very best effort. You treat people and things gently and respectfully.
With all the emphasis on hard work, mental toughness, and personal achievement, it’s not very often that we hear caring and competitive mentioned in the same sentence. About the same person.
But these two traits can and should be nurtured in your athlete. Let’s break down the virtue of caring as described in the above quote to see just how you can use youth sports to teach it to your child.
Caring is giving love and attention to people and and things that matter to you.
Being a caring person doesn’t make you a wimp. It simply means that you pay attention to people and treat them with respect. In youth sports, your child can develop his caring muscles when he treats teammates, opponents, officials, and even spectators with respect. And how about the janitor that cleans the gym or the mom that works hard in the snack bar?
Help your child learn to appreciate and respect the people who make it possible for him to play sports. Without everyone helping out, there would be no youth sports. Encourage her to be aware of these people and to say a kind word when she has a chance.
When you care about people, you help them.
No matter how talented your athlete is, don’t let him fall into the prima dona mindset. Teach him to be on the lookout for how he can help others. It may be little things, like cleaning up the team bench after the game or picking up the trash on the team bus. A caring person helps when she sees it’s needed, instead of walking by and assuming someone else will do the job.
Caring means you do a careful job, giving your very best effort.
A caring athlete will care enough to do the best job he can in the game. Not only for his own satisfaction but because his teammates and coaches are counting on him. He is a true competitor, giving his best so he won’t let the team down.
Caring means you treat people and things gently and respectfully.
Ha, you may be thinking, a gentle athlete? Is there any such thing?
I’d say yes. And here’s how.
Basically it boils down to knowing how to flip the switch. When you have a job to do in the game, whether it’s hitting hard to tackle in football or getting into someone’s grill in basketball, a caring athlete can do what it takes to get the job done in the game, then as soon as the play is over, flip the switch and reach down to help the opponent up, or give an opponent a pat on the back for a good play.
A caring athlete can also flip the switch before and after the game, treating opponents with kindness instead of looking at them as the enemy to be annihilated .
Nurture the Caring in Your Competitor
Would you like to see your child become this type of competitor? One who treats others with respect, has a kind word for those who sacrifice, plays to the best of his ability and knows how to flip the switch before and after games?
Nurturing the Caring in your competitor takes some very intentional parenting.
You Must Be Consistent Yourself
If you tell your child that her words have an impact on others’ feelings but then you turn around and lay into your husband for some insignificant mistake, you’re sending a confusing message. The best way to rectify this is to apologize to your husband in front of your child. You could say something like, “I was unhappy that Dad had to work tonight, and I took it out on him. I’m sorry I acted mean.”
Say Thank You to Each Other Every Day
A great time to do this is at mealtimes. Start your dinner by having each person offer one compliment and one thank-you. It could be as simple as praising Mom for the good meal, or thanking Dad for coming to your child’s game. Help your child learn to make saying Thank You a habit. Every now and then, I still remind my 20s kids to say it, but for the most part they’ve learned well that people really appreciate those two words. Gratefulness is a mark of a caring person.
Model Empathy to Others
When you are rude to the officials or to your child’s coach, your son or daughter will notice. When you exemplify empathy for others, your child will also pick up on that. Turn the tables a bit and suggest to your child things like: “How do you think that official feels with everyone booing him?” or “I wonder how coach feels knowing that everyone is mad at him.”
Showing empathy teaches athletes that no matter how skilled they are, the world–or the team–does not revolve around their talent.
Look for opportunities to talk to your kids about tolerating those who are different from them. One way to do this would be to get your children involved in helping others with medical, physical, or mental challenges. Volunteer with them at Special Olympics, or encourage them to work with the kids in special ed at their school.
Giving your kids opportunities to help others like this opens their eyes to the difficulties that others face and softens the caring muscles of their heart.
Raising a caring competitor will take more than one season or even a couple of years. It is a process to nurture this trait, and it can only be done if you are committed to focus on that trait in your own life.
When an athlete shows that it is possible to be caring and competitive, and a champion to top it off, it is indeed a beautiful thing in the world of sports. Let’s not buy into the lie that athletes must be mean to succeed.
This video is a great example of that. If the opposing team had not help the injured home run hitter around the bases, I’m pretty sure this video would have just been another home video that garnered views from the spectators that were at the game. But these girls showed that caring and competition can play on the same field, and this video got over one millions views on Youtube.
The footage was taken by a parent at the game. Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon is up to bat against Central Washington. The video picks up as Tucholsky hits her first ever home run. Just past 1st base, she tears a ligament in her knee and is unable to run any further. The umpires state that if her teammates or coaches assist her she will be declared out and if a pinch runner is substitued for her, her homer will be declared a single. Hearing this, Central Washington’s Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace offer to carry her around the bases. Thus ends Tucholsky’s softball season and career.
How awesome is that!
I’d say that’s a home run for caring competitors!