Negativity in youth sports has reached epidemic proportions. Parents, coaches and players are all guilty and no matter how much we preach against it, it persists.
Is there an antidote to youth sports negativity? And if so, what is it?
I believe that battling negativity starts with one simple word.
Of course, you may be thinking. I knew that. I teach my kids to say please and thank you.
And that’s a good thing. Manners are important. But I’d like to take it a step beyond routine gratitude.
In his book, The 4:8 Principle, Tommy Newberry identifies that there are two types of gratitude.
Routine gratitude is standard gratitude, the kind we easily express each day. He states that “It is ordinary, reactive, and often superficial. This includes saying thank you after receiving a gift or a helpful gesture. For example, when someone holds a door for you, you say thank you. When someone lets you in as you’re merging into traffic, you wave a thank you to the other driver.”
He then goes on to explain the type of gratitude that will be an attitude changer. He calls it exceptional gratitude.
“Exceptional gratitude is intentional, proactive, and extraordinary. Anyone can be appreciative of something obvious and observable, but it takes a joy-filled person to perceive the mustard seed of potential in a thorny situation or with a difficult individual.”
Exceptional Gratitude starts with being thankful for even the smallest victories as your child plays sports. For your child’s good attitude, even though he struck out. For the fact that your child can play with his friends. It also means that you and your child are thankful for other people. For the coach who gives his time, for the team parent who works hard, for the refs to do their best to make it a fair game.
”There’s no need to wait for the perfect opportunity,” says Newberry. “Express gratitude for progress now! Exceptional gratitude doesn’t require something to be missing before it’s appreciated.”
Negativity is really a waste of time
Dwelling on your problems or the problems your child is having in sports doesn’t fix them; it just makes you very well acquainted with them! And in the process, eats up your insides even as it dominates what comes out of your mouth.
Gratefulness, on the other hand, means you focus on the victories, on the progress. You and your child can reach for excellence, without being depressed about the lack of perfection. Let’s face it, if we look for it, the reasons for negativity are abundant and easy to find.
Someone will always hit better or throw better or swim better or catch better than your child. Thinking that way keeps you in the negative zone. But if instead, you are grateful that your child has made progress and is actually better than many other kids his age, you can grow a grateful attitude.
Gratefulness is a habit that is well worth the effort. It could truly change the culture of youth sports if parents and coaches practiced it, while teaching it to kids. As Newberry says, Gratitude is the cornerstone of an unstoppable attitude.
It begins with you. Start your gratefulness journey today.
Don’t waste another minute! The next season of youth sports is upon you.
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