LONG SHOTS: Parents: It’s just a game, so let it go, no matter how much you want it

With the recent second-degree manslaughter verdict against the now infamous “hockey dad,” I’ve been paying closer attention to how parents react at their children’s athletic events.

In our quiet corner of the world, we love our sports. It’s fun and exciting to see our youth excel at something in which they invest a lot of effort. They’re rewarded with a pat on the back and sometimes hometown celebrity status.

But occasionally, I have to wonder how much we want or even expect our kids to excel at athletics.

Repeatedly, first-round tournament basketball games draw relatively few people. Why is that? Are the tickets too expensive? Or do we just expect our kids to win that “easy” first-round game?

Our kids have the ability to set the bar of excellence higher with each opportunity. It just appears that they are so frequently excelling that sometimes we forget to recognize it other than at the “big game.”

With all of the mid-season tournaments in progress, the word “champion” has been thrown around as if it’s a right of passage.

My question is: Passage to where? In addition to what?

These days, some athletes are more revered than our president. Ask George W. Bush why he isn’t getting a multi-million-dollar-a-year salary like most professional athletes do.

It’s not because he’s not a great president. It’s because we’ve enabled these athletes to become more powerful by the minute, praising them for their “outstanding” performances in their respective arenas.

I’m the first to admit that I do it, and I do it regularly. But it doesn’t make it right.

Like most things in life, how well parents teach and guide their kids makes all the difference.

I hope to be a parent sometime in the future. I want the opportunity to experience the challenges of parenting. Moreover, I want to feel the link that binds a child to his or her parents.

Like the hockey dad, some parents immerse themselves in their children’s athletic endeavors-maybe not with the same grim result, but with similar intensity.

We’ve all heard of the parent who lives vicariously through his or her child. To varying degrees, I believe that’s probably a fair assessment of most parents.

But what prompts parents to do this? Obviously, parents want what they feel is best for their kids, but are parental intentions sometimes what’s best for themselves?

Whether kids are great athletes makes little difference in the grand scheme of life. Being great on the court or playing field is really only worth what you can gain from the challenge of competing.

Taking what you’ve leaned from a game and applying it to the playing field of life-that’s what sports are really about, and that’s how young people should be judged.

Whether our kids are the top scorer or the bench warmer, one truth remains: Our kids can’t play sports forever.

So instead of praising our children for making free throws in a basketball game or pinning their opponent to the mat, let’s praise them as enthusiastically for their work in the classroom so that they might be equipped to compete in the toughest game of all: life.

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