Let Your Child Be The Author Of Their Basketball Story

By Jeff Huber

I love it when my daughters ask to go outside and practice basketball. Or when I ask them if they want to go shoot and they say yes. It's a great feeling to be able to share the game with them.

Some of my best memories of childhood involved practicing while my dad rebounded for me. To be able to pay that forward to them is rewarding.

Unfortunately, it doesn't always go down that way. Sometimes, I ask and they say no.

Sometimes, that produces feelings in me that I'm not crazy about. If I'm honest, I find myself getting annoyed at times that they don't want to practice.

Or getting impatient if they just want to shoot around and not “work” on their game.

I know I shouldn't be that way. Maybe you've experienced similar feelings.

Read on to see what I've learned and am trying to put into practice.

It's Not About Me (Or You)

My desire to work with my daughters is well intentioned. I'm not focused on them getting a basketball scholarship or making it to the WNBA.

I just want to see them be the best they can be. Both of them are good players. They both can be very good if they continue to work.

But what I have come to accept is that it is their choice. I would be thrilled if they pursue basketball with passion. But I won't love them any less if they don't.

Even though I know that's the case, my actions sometimes send a conflicting message.

Sometimes, when they don't want to practice, I express subtle signs of frustration. But actually, they aren't that subtle. My girls pick up on them almost every time.

I don't like how that makes them feel. It sends the message that I'm disappointed in them. Which I shouldn't be.

I have had my turn. I worked exceptionally hard at basketball growing up. And I loved it.

However, that doesn't mean my kids will approach it the same way.

And that's okay. What I really want is for them to have a good experience playing basketball. That could mean multiple things. But what's important is that it's a good experience for them. That should be enough for me.

My New Method for Development and Parent-Child Sports Bonding

I'm trying a new approach. I still ask them if they want to practice. If so, I still might suggest we work on something I think would help them.

If they say yes, great. If they say no, that's okay too.

When they say no, I'm asking them what they'd like to do.

If they want to practice some other part of the game, wonderful.

If they want to shoot around or play HORSE, that's wonderful, too. Since I've been focusing on this, I've been reminded of something.

I want their sports to bring us closer. I see a lot of parents where sports become a wedge issue. The drive home after a game is miserable. The coach's kid can't wait until their parents are done coaching them.

I don't want that. So I'm letting them set the course of our sports journey.

One Amazing, Unexpected Benefit Of This New Approach

On the days where we just shoot around or play HORSE, we laugh a lot. They open up and tell me things they wouldn't otherwise share.

How do you put a value on that? Would scoring 2 more points a game be worth those moments? Hardly.

I remind them that any time they want to practice I'm happy to help, but they get to choose that.

I love seeing them having fun with basketball. I know that as long as they are having fun they will want to continue to play, in ways both serious and leisurely.

Why Practice Must Be Your Child's Idea

You can make them practice. It might make them better, at least in the short run.

But consider the long term consequences of this.

Will that increase their love of the game? Will it make them appreciate or resent you?

If you force it on them, they are likely to pull away from both the game and you.

So, does this mean you can never push them? No...

When You Can Push Them

You can still push your child. But it should be done with their permission.

I recently heard an idea I really liked. A coach/dad talked about how he and his daughter had an agreement regarding her doing early AM workouts - if he woke up and her basketball shoes were outside her room, he got her up to train. If they weren't, he let her sleep.

This allowed her to have control over the situation. It also gave her space to make the decision about what she wanted to do.

There is a time and place to push. If your child tells you they want to make the varsity team or play in college, remind them of the work they need to put in.

But do it unemotionally. When your emotion gets involved, it sends the message that it's about you.

Reminding them dispassionately is a fair way to keep them accountable while keeping the focus where it should be - on them.

Proud Parent Moment: Witnessing True Passion

Last week, my 9 year old disappeared. Minutes later, I heard the ball bouncing. She had my phone and was in the driveway by herself working on her ballhandling.

My heart was warmed. Not because I see this as a path to stardom. Because I love seeing her have intrinsic motivation to work on something she feels strongly about.

Would I love that to be basketball? I'd be lying if I said no. But truly, I'll be happy no matter what it is.

Seeing her pursue her passion in any field would be special. Her knowing that I feel that way and will support her no matter what is invaluable!

After all, it's her story. I can't wait to watch her write it!

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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