My kid is about to be the new kid on the team. This is just a super hard thing to watch. He's bravely trying basketball in a town where sports are a pretty big deal. The kids he'll be playing with have been at it since birth. My son ran out of the gym at the age of 6 – after one day – declaring the place too loud.
But now he wants to play. He's older, he's a risk taker, he's made his peace with noise. "Mom, I want to play. I think I can do it."
These words strike both awe and fear in my heart. He's ready now. Am I?
Of course he should play, it's just basketball after all. Kids have been playing forever and really the only option these days seems to be organized sports. Gone are the days when the neighborhood kids play ball in driveways everyday. The world has gone crazy about organization, so here we are: He's excited and I'm full of fear for his tender, hopeful heart.
What do we do when our kids want try something new, knowing it will be (sometimes painfully) obvious that they lack the skill and strength of the kids who have been at it longer than they have?
And it's not just sports, what about the kid who wants to try out for choir or band or the play for the first time? Growing up should be a time of trying new things, there should be room for everyone.
And the triers are so brave! It's easy to join something you know you're good at. It takes real guts to join something new, knowing you won't be the best.
Life is competitive, and kids don't always like to have the "new kid" on their team – the kid that's having a hard time hitting the ball. Or making the basket. Or hitting the right notes. And that doesn't always bring out the best in our kids who pride themselves on winning or sounding amazing.
Our kids can have high standards that get the better of them.
So, as a new year is upon us, full of new seasons of the things kids do, I humbly ask you to be your kids' at-home coach. Talk to you Brave Triers and your Veteran Pros. We can help make this season a success for everyone, keeping in mind success has nothing to do with winning.
Here are some things you might say to your kids as they embark on their journey:
Be brave and kind.
Brave people try things even when they're scared or uncertain about how it will go. Not everyone understands what bravery looks like. Some people might think the mistakes you make mean you aren't worthy of being there. They still have to learn about bravery – that's their lesson, you don't need to worry about it.
Being brave is enough. You are enough.
Be kind to yourself even when things are hard. Be kind to that kid on the bench who's talking about how you're the worst one. You have a responsibility to be kind even when others aren't. It won't be easy. You need to keep trying, even if what others are saying gets you down. Never forget: What others think does not define you.
You'll get out of this new experience exactly what you put into it. Ask for help, keep trying, do not take your frustrations out on others. You're responsible for your own reactions, regardless of what's thrown your way.
We've all seen person who gives up or throws a tantrum when things don't go the way they hoped or planned. Don't be that kid.
We've all seen the person who continues to get up and keep trying even when it is hard. Who pushes past their mistakes and setbacks to do great things. Be that kid.
Be brave and kind.
If you're brave, you can be a leader. And not just any leader, you can be the best kind – a humble leader. Humble leaders know that even if they're the very best one, they're not worth more than anyone else on the team.
They bravely encourage others and show that everyone has a place. They may be afraid, but they stand up for the underdog anyway, even when it's not a popular thing to do.
It's easy to be kind to kids that are doing amazing stuff. It'll be harder to be kind to the kids who are struggling, because sometimes they'll frustrate you. They'll make mistakes.
The new kids will get better with support and friendship and practice. No one has ever improved at anything by being told that they were the worst. Lift them up with kind words.
You will not always be the star of the play. Or in the starting line up. At some point in life, you'll just as easily find yourselves in the shoes of the new kid. I promise you: It will happen. You'll look around and everyone else will seem to have it easy. Think of how you'd want to be treated in that moment. Know you'll always remember the kid that helped to bring you up, was an encourager, who acted as a friend. Be that kid.
You'll also always remember the kid who tried to tell you you that weren't as valuable as everyone else, that you didn't have much worth. How do you want to be remembered?
This season let's talk with our Triers and Pros. Let's help them each see their value. Help them see the opportunities they have to grow and learn, help them be kind.
It's heartbreaking to realize that your child is being picked on for not being as good at something. It should be equally heartbreaking to learn that your child feels like he's a superior force in the world.
It's fun to win games, but we need to teach our kids to win at life. And winning at life looks a lot like helping a buddy shoot hoops, encouraging a friend who's trying to master that song everyone else already knows. It looks a lot like pulling people up, instead of putting them down. It looks like a child bravely facing possible failure and trying anyway.
For our kids, the real prizes are not the trophies they win, but rather the lessons they learn and the friendships they make.