FATHER’S DAY usually brings baseball games, the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament and myriad other sports. In this most unusual of years, that’s obviously not the case.
As leagues begin taking tentative, revokable steps to resume play without spectators, there are no games for fathers to take their children to this year. But there are still valuable lessons about sports that Dads can teach their sons and daughters. (So can Moms, grandparents, guardians or any other household voices of authority.)
When we think of fathers and sports, the immediate images are usually of famous multigenerational families like the Griffeys, Earnhardts and hockey-playing Hulls. LeBron James is making his case as one of the best basketball players ever, but his son Bronny is reportedly more advanced as a high schooler than his famous dad. And the tributes to the late Kobe Bryant focused as much on his parenting skills for his daughters as on his skill on the court.
I always think of Cal Ripken Sr., passing on the love of baseball to his namesake Hall of Fame son (and to Billy Ripken, a solid player in his own right). Or of Pat Mahomes, an accomplished major league pitcher, encouraging his son to follow his passion for football and watching him become the NFL’s MVP and Super Bowl champion before age 25.
But even for children who aren’t superstars, it means the world to have Dad’s support. Here’s to all the parents who drive soccer car pool or take their children to 5 a.m. swim practice.
My father wasn’t an athlete, and work often kept him from attending my high school cross country and track meets, but he later showed up for recreation basketball and softball games after his retirement.
Not everyone cares about sports, obviously, and only a small percentage of those who do become elite athletes. That shouldn’t stop fathers (and mothers) from supporting their children’s interests, whatever they may be.
Sports certainly have their problems. We see it now in baseball’s haggling over millions of dollars, the NCAA’s antiquated amateurism policies and the NFL’s issues with race relations and concussions. But there are plenty of reasons to play games, starting with the obvious health benefits. So Dads, teach your kids about the joy of sports.
Encourage them to be active, to try their best and to be good teammates. If they’re keeping score, you should try to win (within the rules, of course). But celebrate your child’s effort and enjoyment rather than the result—especially at an early age.
If your child loses a game, don’t let it ruin his or her day (or week, or month). Learn from any mistakes and try harder next time. If the other guy (or girl) played better on a given day, acknowledge that fact and congratulate them.
Parents and children should realize that while a college scholarship or a pro career is a noble goal, only a tiny percentage achieve it. So try, but don’t be obsessive. That often leads to overuse injuries or psychological burnout that can sour a child’s love for an activity.
Encourage and allow children to try multiple sports, even if they show an aptitude for a specific one. Studies have shown diversifying is good for muscular growth and that most successful athletes have a wide range of experiences.
Most of all, make sure they’re having fun, and assure them that even in these tough and unprecedented times, sports will be back soon.
Happy Father’s Day.