When Your "Friday Night Lights" Burn Out and You Try to Turn Them Back on through Your Children.

[vc_row fullwidth="false" attached="false" padding="0" visibility="" animation=""][vc_column border_color="" visibility="" width="1/1"][vc_column_text disable_pattern="true" align="left" margin_bottom="0"]I still remember the moment they went out for me.  I was sitting in the office of my college coach.  My ankle was black and blue from a spring training injury.  Having finally earned a starting position, I was eager to play my senior year.   College soccer had been a blast as well as a massive learning curve.  It was about to push me off a cliff. My coach told me I could stay, but I wouldn't play.  Better players were coming, etc.  Hard truth.  I swallowed it, graciously bowed out of the team and wondered what hit me.

We live in a culture driven by sports and the "heroes" within.  More to the point, our money and attention get swallowed up by what used to be a fun way to hang out on the weekend, but now can capture us almost any day of the week.  Fantasy football, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Thursday, then replays on the other days - it's a full-time job.   It can consume our hearts and minds almost as much as if we were back out there grinding it out on the field.  How funny  that we still think about it (at least I do), replaying that one play or that one goal.  Maybe it's not funny at all, as I am sure many wives would say "get over it and do some real work."

Since those  "glory days" are over, we find solace in cheering for our team.  It's more like "willing" them to victory as, for some reason, it matters so much more than just bragging rights.  I love it and I hate it.  I've learned to tame the beast over the years, but  there was a time when my wife would just steer clear when Tennessee was playing football.  The beast was in full crazy mode.   I couldn't tame it.  I  became it.  She knew that if they lost it might be a couple of days before I became my normal self again.

We mature (a little) over the years.  We put away the newspaper clippings, stop telling the stories (as much), and act like we don't care about it anymore.  But the beast paces in its cage.

Then we have kids.  Our kids play Xbox.  They eventually want to play sports.  They want to practice those celebration moves so perfectly displayed  from three camera angles on their Xbox games. Our 5 and 6 year olds begin to score touchdowns and goals and we become involved - more so than we should be.  "Referees" make bad calls and we are ready to bring down the thunder on said "referee," or the other enemy parents who disagree with our disagreement of the call.  Did I mention that these teams were already club/traveling teams?  Oh yes.  It's never too early!

Without realizing it, the beast has been released again.  Somehow, my identity, which has wrongly been wrapped up in my former successes and failures in sports, has now melded with the dreams and aspirations of my own children.  I'm a Dad/Coach, trying to correct the mistakes I made when I played.  They will do it better.  We can work hard, practice, get better so that they will look like the heroes of our day.  They will be happy.  I will be  happy.

What is wrong with me?

It's one thing for this to be your beef that you wrestle with daily, it's another to pass it on to your kids.  My little man walked away from a soccer game last Saturday, where he played so well, with tears in his eyes.

"What's going on, buddy?"

"I didn't score and that's what people care about."

This from a little player (if I may boast in my boy for a moment) who knows the game better than his Dad did when he went to college.

I cringe a bit, partly because I see his heart struggle, but mostly because I know that I may have something to do with this.

I know the feeling all too well.  Your insides are wrapped up in performance and what people think of you.  I fight it even at 43, my competitive playing days over 20 years ago, but I still wonder if I have what it takes.  Sports was only the beginning.  It's reach goes much farther.

I want to parent well in these moments, but I know it hasn't been settled in my  own heart.   How do I help my little man while fighting the same battle?

I've actually found these to be the easier parental moments.  My kiddos respond well when they know I haven't figured it out yet.   I show them my own weakness and struggle and we talk about how Jesus can meet us in this place.

My wife Lisa read an article that she found about a year ago that changed my  approach overnight and helped to put the beast in its place.    No more "you should work on this" or "next time, try this" - even if it killed me to keep quiet, I would say one thing and one thing only:

I love watching you play. 

That's what I did.  I told him I loved watching him and the only thing that mattered was whether or not he was having fun.  He had one more game that day and we agreed that the only goal worth getting was whether or not he had fun.

Then it hit me:  my  Mom and Dad did the same thing for me.  They may not have used those exact words, but it was exactly what I experienced.  I could look into the stands and see them sitting there - every game.  They traveled to soccer games in college - even if I didn't play the whole time.  I never felt the pressure to perform or succeed.  I didn't need football or soccer to remind me that I was their son, that they loved me - win or lose.

(Here's a secret:  Jesus doesn't want or need you to perform either to be His son or daughter.)

I walked out of my coach's office  crushed, but I knew who to call.  I was a few hundred miles away, but they were still in the stands.   I can't recall the conversation, but I'm sure they told me that they loved me and that God was working anyway.

They were right.  I joined a Gospel Choir and fell in love with this girl named Lisa.

I would call that a winning season.[/vc_column_text][mk_icon_box2 icon_type="icon" icon_size="64" icon="mk-li-paper-plane" icon_color="#02b3ff" title="Follow Chad's Blog and never miss a post." title_size="24" title_weight="inherit" title_top_padding="10" title_bottom_padding="10" align="center"]

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