After reading this article from NHL player Patrick O’Sullivan, I was intrigued to share his story and add my thoughts, of course. His entire story can be read here.
O’Sullivan was a successful Hockey star with a tough childhood. He tells his story of how his abusive father did whatever he could to make sure that O’Sullivan became an NHL player. His father’s abuse was cruel and torturous, bottom line. As O’Sullivan explains, his father’s abuse did nothing to make him a hockey great, he was a great hockey player because he was born with the qualities needed to be great: he was quick, could see where the puck was going to shot, he was fearless, he was agile, and he was able to understand the speed the game is played. These qualities aren’t beat into you by your parents:
“Either you have it or you don’t. Screaming at your kid in the car on the way to a hockey game isn’t going to get them to the next level. Having a 12-year-old kid run six miles after practice isn’t going to turn them into Jonathan Toews.”
This story is important to tell to all youth sport’s parents. When a child is in a sport, whether it is soccer, gymnastics, dance, ice skating, etc. There is no amount of spankings, threats, punishment, home conditioning, yelling, or home coaching that is going to magically make your child acquire “it”.
The inner drive, the want, the need, the love, and the desire to master their sport is something that the athlete has to find. They have to find their reason to endure long practices, challenges, hard work , and suffering through the pain of training. They have to find “it” on their own and no one can beat “it” into them.
Sure kids will train and compete when they have external forces that pressure them, but that won’t give them the “it”. Coaches and parents are there to guide, teach, and support the child. When coaches and parents let the child find a sport they are passionate about, they kids will learn to love their sport.
They will love their sport even if they will never make a college, Olympic, or Professional team. They will love taking challenges or the social bonding with their friends. They will love trying to master their sport or the feeling of working hard. Their sport will fill them with love and pure joy. If that is your child, let them have that.
O’Sullivan goes on to say that the reason he thinks he was great was because he would spend hours on the ice practicing so he wouldn’t have to be at home with his father. He became amazing because he wanted to, because he worked hard over and over, and because he loved hockey, not because his father made him great: he made himself great.
“You know when you actually get good at sports? When you’re having fun and being creative. When you’re being a kid. When you don’t even realize you’re getting better, that’s when you’re getting better. If you’re not engaged in what you’re doing, it’s as helpful as taking the trash out. It’s just another chore.”
When an child finds a sport they love; don’t tarnish their love and joy for their sport, or ruin your relationship with them by trying to make them more than they can be. The “it” factor is something that is deep inside the athlete. It is not something that can be bought or beat into the child.