Sharing sports as a common interest with your children is a wonderful experience but like all things, it takes effort. The effort of course needs to be a bit more on the shoulders of the adult, after all isnít it every parents wish to communicate more with their kids? Recently, I witnessed firsthand the success and the failure of using sports as a communications tool between parent and adult.
Last week I attended an Atlanta Braves baseball game with my son. He lives about four hours from Atlanta in Bluffton, South Carolina. As a birthday present he had purchased some great lower box seats at Turner Field and we went to see his beloved Braves take on the New York Mets and through the power of my eavesdropping I learned a few things.
In front of us sat a father and son (the youngster looked about 12 or 13 years old), seemingly regulars at Braves games, talking to ushers and the season ticket holders around us. During the course of batting practice and the game the pair communicated all the time ó talking school, baseball, upcoming playoffs and about the two foul balls the youngster caught. Both father and son seemed genuinely interested in each otherís perspectives and interests. It was very clear to me that the father was intentionally drawing his son into more and more conversation that actually lead to issues about bullying at school and his sonís rough first week.
The youngster had already shared a great deal with primer conversation, opened up further with his dad. While it took almost the whole game, they came up with a plan for the rest of the school week and walked out of the game with dadís arm around his sonís shoulders laughing and talking about the game.
Throughout the same time period there was a father and daughter in the row directly behind us (the daughter looked to be approximately 15 or 16). The father introduced his daughter to the season ticket holders sitting around them. She was extremely polite and friendly in meeting the people and smiled through her braces. As the last note of the National Anthem was sung through the end of the game, her father never spoke another word to her. Many times I heard her ask her father questions ó about baseball, his job, the implications of the game for the Braves and many more. Dad never answered her. He drank his beer, talked non-stop to the guy sitting next to him, over that manís wife I might add. Every once in awhile I would glance back and the teenager looked heartbroken as her father ordered another beer for himself.
By no means have I been a perfect father. Many times over the years and to this day I have been distracted by lifeís problems and worries. Try as I might, I know there have been times when I wasnít the best listener, communicator or interested party. Sitting there with my son in the wonderful box seats that he had purchased for my birthday, I realized that sports can be the communications link for us as parents with our children and our children with us.
It doesnít matter if it is a Major League Baseball game or a high school soccer game the opportunity exists for sports to be the global language that allows for distraction, conversation and problem solving. Sports provide teaching moments for our kids and if we listen hard enough, some very important lessons for parents, too.
Greg Kamp is a 23-year veteran of youth sports as a coach and administrator and is currently the President of Penfield Little League and sits on the board at the District level. He is the host of Youth Sports Now, a weekly radio show on WYSL-AM/FM and also runs Strategy First, his own public relations and marketing business.