Vicki Rudawsky: Parents, failure is a great teacher
My kids are the greatest. Really, my husband and I think they are pretty amazing. My friends' kids are great too.
And I am sure that you think your kids are awesome as well. Pretty much everyone I know cannot wait to tell you about the latest accomplishment, travel team spot, academic honor, scholarship, etc. that their child has earned.
That's part of being a parent.
I am not sure how coaches today do it. I mean, how can you have tryouts and make cuts when every kid is so great? How can you divide between a varsity and JV squad? How can you choose captains when so many seniors are deserving of that honor?
From what I have gathered, you can't. God forbid you sit a sophomore during a varsity game and then ask them to play JV. God forbid you only play Johnny for 15 minutes of a tough game, even though he is not a strong player. God forbid you don't make Susie captain, even though she is a senior but shows up late for practice every day.
I will forever remember the day we received the envelope that let us know whether our daughter made the seventh-grade soccer team or not. All the other girls told her that she should make the team, and she was feeling pretty confident. When we opened the envelope, I only was able to read "Thank you for trying out for the team, however….." before the tears started and my heart broke in two.
Our daughter was crushed, and I was angry. I was sure the tryouts were political and unfair. I was sure they didn't even spend one second watching our daughter so they could see how great she really was. I wanted to march right back to school and demand that the coach re-think his, obviously wrong, decision.
Did I? Of course not. We cried, we mourned, and we moved on. The next year, she played field hockey and after that, she found a love for cross country, a sport in which she's still competing.
These days, it seems that if a parent disagrees with a coach's assessment of a child's talent, all he or she has to do is complain. Or, believe it or not, file a lawsuit. Bam, your kid is back on the team, and better yet, maybe even playing varsity.
Good job, mom and dad. You have now taught your child, well, nothing good. You have showed him that if something makes him sad, you will swoop in and fix it because, well, obviously not everyone can immediately see how great he is, but now they will. Right?
Part of being a kid and growing up is to learn how to deal with disappointment. Part of growing up is to fail, to have someone else say, "You aren't good enough" or "you need to work harder." We need to hear that when we are young, because we will certainly hear those same words at some point in our adult lives. Many elite athletes have been cut from a team or told that they weren't good enough. Those words became the driving force behind their eventual success.
For those who remember TV commercials from years ago, my dad was the guy who would walk away from the field or the track on a bad day and offer up a Lifesaver and a hug. He never blamed the coach or the ref. He never spoke badly of the other kids I competed against. He offered few words, but the words he did say were to the effect that everything would be all right, and that tomorrow was another day.
Parents, back off and let coaches do their jobs. Too many good coaches have quit because they are pressured to make every kid feel as great as their parents think they are. In some places, parents are banned from events because they are too disruptive or threatening to other teams, refs and coaches.
Our kids are both good athletes, but more importantly, they are great people. They have been cut, they have been yelled at, they have sat the bench. They are also respectful, kind, hard working, and cheer their teammates on. It hurts to let your child fail and learn as you watch from afar, but the reward is watching your child grow, mature, and become great all on their own.
Former Olympic runner Vicki Huber Rudawsky's column appears biweekly in The News Journal. Contact her at sports@ delawareonline.com.