Tonight we let MBA Son stay up way, way past his bedtime to watch the end of the enthralling Kentucky-Notre Dame Elite Eight game, in which Kentucky edged Notre Dame with two free throws in the final seconds of the game to win 68-66 to advance to the Final Four. Sure, so many of us with brackets barely limping along are breathing a sigh of relief with the job that Kentucky, led by head coach John Calipari did but winning wasn’t the best thing he did tonight. After the game he addressed the crowd, acknowledged the strong effort on the part of Notre Dame, but he said something else that caught my attention.
“I’ll tell you what, and I haven’t done this, but I want to thank the parents of these young people for allowing this to happen.”
Wow, I thought, I am so glad he gets it. Now, MBA Son is only in first grade and MBA Toddler is only two but many of my contemporaries have older children who are very involved in sports. The commitment involved on the part of the parents is daunting. Whether it’s travel teams, summer camps. or competition at the high school level, the time, money and energy required to position these children with demonstrated talent to have the opportunity to play at a Division I school is considerable.
It’s not just the time driving the kids to practice, to games and tournaments that are sometimes hours away and money spent on fees, uniforms and team fundraising, but for me, the greater challenge is the more subtle art of nurturing your child’s interest, to keep going year after year. While we are just starting out with sports for MBA Son who has already played two years of Little League, he has been playing piano for almost three years. I drive him to lessons each week. Most of the time I sit with him, so his musically incompetent mother can help him out with practice. I make sure he practices every day. I crack out the metronome to help him perfect his rhythms. Still, I think the most important contribution I make is finding ways to make music interesting so he wants to play. It’s taking him to the Chicago Symphony. It’s telling stories about the songs we hear on the radio that I remember when I was his age.
Maintaining that interest is so important. It keeps them focused. It helps them through the tough times and they will lose big games and make mistakes during recitals. It will get them to the next level. Lastly, for a very driven and fortunate few, it will get them on the ladder cutting down pieces of net like those Kentucky players did tonight.
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