The biggest gift we can give our kids or the next generation of sports men and women, is to remove the fear of failure from their minds.
Being a father of a 4-year old boy is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as a human being. As any father, or mother will tell you, unconditional love has no equal.
Of course it does not come without its challenges, and knowing that how you deal with those challenges will ultimately shape your child’s future, or who he or she will become, is enough to scare the living shit out of anyone!
Being part of a rugby, and general sports-mad family, it should come as no surprise that he has about 15 balls of all shapes and sizes – all of which are used and abused more than the family pets (luckily). Even his fish (which we have to feed of course) have been christened with his favourite rugby players – all of whom takes up a large portion of his wall in his room as-well!
Such is his frustration in cold, miserable Cape Town winters, that dad has been forced to buy special sports equipment which may be used inside the house and garage without fear of breaking anything!
And it is in these moments when you see him hit a six over the kitchen counter into the dogs bed, destroy the gardening equipment in the garage by scoring a goal, and insisting that only he is allowed to call ‘touch, pause, engage’ when we ‘scrum’, that you notice the absolute freedom and happiness they find and enjoy as uncorrupted individuals or minds when playing sport.
You are taken back as a parent to the days of your childhood, where we used to emulate our cricket or rugby heroes in the backyard with your brothers and neighbour’s kids. You are reminded how you used to love the game back then, where issues of mismanagement, quotas, or any other issue that clouds the spirit of the game in your mind today, meant absolutely nothing.
We were all there once, that place where we had an unconditional love for the game, but with most things in life, our minds became corrupted and that we once enjoyed, today we fear.
It was reading the brilliant article by Tom Dawson-Squib on Rugby365 where I realised that we as parents arguably play the biggest roles when it comes to corrupting our kids and robbing them of their innocence.
As we move on in life the space in which we found happiness and sense was somehow replaced with distrust and fear, and it is this fear Tom Dawson-Squib talks about which makes us frail as a sporting nation.
At some point we decided to rather not hit that six because if we do, we might just get caught in the outfield and let the team and the supporters down. Today, we would rather suppress our instincts or that which gives us (and those around us) such joy because the fear of making a mistake, or God-forbid lose because of a wrong decision or poorly executed move, weighs far greater on our shoulders and minds than the actual joy of just doing what we love.
There is nothing wrong with a conservative, or well analysed approach to limit risk in life and in sport, but we are doing ourselves and our kids such a massive disservice when conservatism through indoctrination becomes a natural instinct rather than one of 5 or 10 options.
Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that being fearless does not mean being careless, it is simply the mindset that in losing you can also win – IF you do not fear losing itself. Isn’t that what being champions are about? Isn’t that what being brave is about?
It might be too late for us to change our approach or mindset, but there is nothing which suggest that we cannot teach, or coach our kids and the next generation of sportsmen and women to become fearless. We just need to become brave again like we once were, and our children are today.