Olympic Lessons For (Too Often) Star-Struck Kids

There are three layers to me.  I’m a doting dad, a try-to-be-helpful husband and, lastly, an un-apologetic sports junkie.

It would stand to reason that on the doorstep of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, I couldn’t be more excited.

Sure, I love the competition and the fact that my television can be locked into sports for two weeks straight.  My true excitement, though, is grounded in my anticipation of the sport-centric teaching moments the Games will provide for my kids.

As a sports obsessed, Good-Bad Dad, I’m at my best when I can use sports analogies to explain situations to my kids.

Only a sports fanatic like me can liken my kids’ “Spring Break” to pro football’s two-minute warning.

Other sports junkie dads would certainly appreciate an explanation of keeping your back row intact in Checkers via a baseball analogy – referencing moving outfielders deeper to prevent doubles with the tying run on first base in the ninth inning.

By association, my kids are budding sports junkies too.  They know sports and modern sports icons.

If you ask my older children about their favorite athletes, they will gravitate toward LeBron James, Reynaldo, Cam Newton or Odell Beckham, Jr.

If you pressed them about their adoration of these notable sports icons, it won’t be long before they’d comment about these athletes’ off-the-field riches and brand.  Frankly, I’m tired of the glitz and glamour – the shoe deals and fancy cars.

In fact, I’m looking forward to watching no such notables during the Olympics.

The lessons I want my kids to learn from the Olympic Games are from sports they may not even know and formed by athletes whose names will disappear after the next two weeks.

I want my daughter to watch the women’s gymnastics team fly gracefully through the air.  She should marvel at the courage it must take to attempt such defiance of gravity.  We’ll watch the track and field, beach volleyball and softball competitions – taking time to note of the differing shapes, sizes and specialties of the world-class female competitors.

I want my soccer-playing son, Lynden, to watch the world’s best footballers belt out their country’s anthem before they take the pitch – understanding the enhanced level of pride in playing for the name on the front of their jersey rather than their own on the back.

Yosef, my torpedo in the swimming pool, should watch Michael Phelps cement his place in Olympic history.  I hope to teach him to admire the work that turned an immature, 15 year-old prodigy like Phelps into one of the greatest of all time at age 31.

The Olympics, for me, provide concrete examples of qualities that are only conceptual to our kids otherwise.  These are the lessons I want my kids to remember – not the shoes the stars wear or the cool headphones they adorn as they enter the arena.

These qualities are timeless and transcendent:

-The concept that accolades are not given, they are earned through years of work that most people aren’t willing to do.  The cornerstone of any of these athlete’s success is the discipline to practice and propensity to focus while doing so every day.

-The truth that there is more honor in representing something greater than yourself.  After all, receiving the M.V.P. trophy is great but pales in comparison to celebrating a championship with teammates you’ve sacrificed with or for a country that has been starved for good news.

-Witnessing firsthand that being the best requires a healthy obsession to pursue a passion, no matter the sacrifice.

-My kids should keenly understand that God-given, physical gifts will never alone create a champion.

Ultimately, the best lesson the Olympic Games can provide to my kids is captured in the Olympic Creed:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.  The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” 

Let the Games – and learning – begin.

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