John F. Russell: Support the best thing a parent can offer

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— It’s too bad children don’t come with printed instructions or at least rules that parents should follow when they are watching a game along the sideline.

John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

But they don’t, so I’ve spent the past couple of years learning the ins and outs of being the parent of a young athlete. It’s nothing new to me — I’ve spent most of my life watching, photographing and reporting youth sports. I’ve seen good examples and bad examples of what it takes to be a parent watching the game from the sideline. I’ve tried to learn from those examples.

But what I’ve learned is that being a parent isn’t as easy as it looks.

It takes patience, it takes self-control and it takes time — lots of time. Truth is that it’s our children who are on the field chasing their dreams and experiencing why sports are so important in our lives. Parents are there to cheer respectfully, offer advice when we can and pay the bills.

We all want to see our children succeed, and we all want to see our children reach their goals. But the most important thing is that we want to see our children have fun while learning lessons that only sports can teach us.

Parents who have stood on the sideline of a game, especially a close game, understand what I’m talking about. The fact is that it’s not about winning or losing. No, the game is about our children achieving their goals and discovering the confidence that comes from playing a game.

The parents' role is to support our children.

That might mean getting up at the break of dawn on a Saturday and driving three hours to play a game in another town. It might mean giving up a few hours in front of the television on a Sunday afternoon during football season to kick the soccer ball around a nearby field. Or it might mean reaching into our wallets to pay for a camp or a piece of equipment.

There are times when it’s challenging, there are times when it seems hard to stand on the sideline and keep our comments to ourselves and there will be times when it’s hard not to be too critical.

But it’s at those times when we have to stop and remember that our children are playing the game because it’s fun. Their chances of making it to the pro level, competing in a World Cup or even earning a spot on a college team are slim. But what they will take off the field in the next few years could be just as important.

At the end of the day, the most important thing any parent can do is offer support. This is where our children will learn that the calls, as in life, are not always fair. This is where they will learn that hard work pays off with better performances but not necessarily wins. This is where our children learn that it doesn’t matter if they win or lose because at the end of the game, there is always somebody there to cheer for them — their parents.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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