I Loved Being Here & Loved Watching You Play | Next Gen Blog | Church on the Hill

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I Loved Being Here & Loved Watching You Play

April 9, 2024 | Becca Gunyon

I loved being here! I loved watching YOU play!

As parents, we often find ourselves at the field, court, stage or driving our kids to one of these places. Growing up, the ballpark was always a place that brought our family closer together, and there is a reason behind this. My parents cultivated a culture of enjoying the person in the uniform, regardless of their performance.

The key to cultivating an amazing family sports’ culture is determined by what we (as parents) focus on.

Whether there is a homerun or a strikeout, don't act too excited, and don’t ever appear angry. Always use the same verbiage. Do not let your kids think their performance affects your happiness or how proud you are of them. You need to communicate that you love supporting and cheering for your kids, because you love who they are as a person.” Danise Owings

Sixteen years ago, my mom gave Dan and I this life-giving wisdom when our oldest, Owin, was in T-ball. 

She said, “After every game or performance, say to your child/teen, ‘I loved being here. I loved watching you play!” 

This one phrase has been in my back pocket traveling with me to baseball fields, tennis matches, and basketball courts all over the Southeast. Everywhere I go, every event that I watch one of our 5 kids compete in, win or loss, I might feel a variety of emotions, but I know what to say:

“I loved being here, I loved watching you play.” 

Communicating: I’m here because I love you.

This phrase has enriched our relationships with each of our five children! 

Growing up in a family of fierce competitors, my parents lived this! The attitude after the game was a feeling of: I loved being here, I loved watching you play, let’s go get some dinner. As I flashback to baseball fields all across the country at every level of this game, I can hear my dad’s amazing laugh (regardless of the game’s outcome) and enjoying a meal together after the game. Now there were meals where my siblings or I were upset about our own performance. Sports and competing can be hard on the heart. Most kids wrestle with insecurities, performance, expectations, failure…

However, when invited into our dream, sport, hobby, my parents worked diligently to help us work through our emotions, setbacks, and encouraged us to keep going.  Honestly, Dan and I have not always done this perfectly and when we let our own emotions get involved, we have had to apologize and remember what we want to communicate: “I loved being here, because I love YOU!”

Whether you are a parent of a preschooler at their dance recital or their first soccer game or you are watching your senior playing some of their last high school basketball or baseball games or tennis matches or horse shows or soccer games, you can start communicating:

 “I love being here at this event (game, match, performance, set, show) because I love YOU!” 

As parents, we can choose our reaction.

As a counselor, through the years, I have met with high school athletes in a variety of sports (football, basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball, track, dance, and gymnastics)  with a variety of struggles. Each athlete or performer hopes their parents will come to their event, smile on the sidelines, enjoy watching them, not get angry at their performance or critique them, and be proud of them for who they are. So many high school guy athletes have told me, “I wish my dad enjoyed my games...” 

Last spring leaving a baseball field, I overheard two very different conversations: 

One dad said loudly, “You should have ….” His tone was angry. His son’s head was down. 

Another dad a few steps behind him said to his son, “In the second game, what are three things you did well?” His tone was calm. He was comforting his son. 

Most kids already know about the error, the ball they could have caught, the strikeout that could have been a hit, the pitch they threw down the middle, the missed goal, the bad serve, the fumble, the forgotten lines in the play, the missed music note... Kids and teens know all about their errors, misses, stats, they're already berating themselves. They relive these moments in their brain, however our words can help them grow from failure or become more insecure and anxious.

We want to help our kids work through discouragement and failure in healthy ways. Our reactions can lead to resentment, shutting down the communication by speaking in anger thus adding shame. In contrast our voice can help our kids grow, thrive, and choose perseverance and hope. We can help our kids bounce back after setbacks by the way we encourage them! 

Our kids need to believe their performance does not affect our emotions. If their performance affects our happiness this causes too much pressure. 

WE can choose our words, our tone, and how we react! 

Dan and I have been trying to create a culture where our kids know their value does not come from their performance, instead their worth comes from being created by God, for He made all of us masterpieces. We try to wait until our kids want to discuss their game, match, and details.  If our child seems down, we try to wait, pray, and ask them to think about three things that they did well. If we get impatient and have a conversation that stresses one of our kids out, we have to apologize.

We aren’t always going to get it perfect, yet we want our kids to enjoy sporting together and enjoy the car ride home.

Working together and figuring this out took years, yet it was worth it. Our newly published story, Fairytales to Forgiveness. is one of forgiveness, hope, and continually working together to create a culture for our kids to thrive. Both of us would say this attitude of enjoying our kids as a person instead of focusing on their performance transformed relationships in our home. 

If you need a phrase in your backpocket after a win or a loss, a game winning touchdown or a fumble, a ace serve or a double fault, a homerun or a strikeout, a three pointer or an airball, a beautiful performance or missed lines:

We can always say, “I loved being here, I loved watching you play!’ (because I love you!) 

Self Reflection:
  • As a parent, what do I do after a sporting event or performance? 

  • What did my parents do after I competed? Did it make me feel supported or stressed out? What reaction did I hope for? 

  • Is the car ride home stressful? Why?

  • Does my child/teen react to me in a way that reveals they want my input? How or How not?

  • Do my emotions and words enrich the experience or ruin it? How?

  • Can I try saying this phrase: “I loved being here, and I loved watching YOU play” and wait for my child to ask or bring up the game? 

  • Can I watch my words so that I do not add additional stress or pressure?

Prayer:

God, I want to help my child/teen be their best self in life and sports. Help me to know what to say or not to say to encourage my children. I want to build relationships, please show me any way that I am building walls or causing resentment. I invite You into each car ride home after a sporting event. Help me to focus on how much I love my child/teen instead of focusing on results. 

My Why: Helping families enjoy their relationships with one another! @parentingmomentbymoment @chooselifetothefullest FB - beccaowingsgunyon- writer 

NEW PARENTING WORKSHOP & WORKBOOKMaking Ordinary Moments EXTRAordinary Becca Gunyon, MCC, director of The Way Counseling since 2000  (loving life as a wife, mom of 5, pastoral student counselor/ parent coach), author of The Treasure, Choose Life to the Fullest series, Journey to His Heart, Journey with His Voice, Fairytales to Forgiveness

All Books Available: beccagunyon.com & thewayswecare.org & Amazon

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