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Editorial: Release your child

Athletics teaches responsibility, leadership, discipline

We have a goal for parents as pads start popping, balls are kicked and spiked, and legs churn this week, when high school athletes start their preseason drills: release your child.

If you do, it will be one of the biggest gifts you could ever give your son or daughter.

To be sure, there will be plenty of “letting go” in the coming weeks, as parents prepare to send their children off to school. The parting hugs or the lingering release of fingertips between parent and child are commonplace this time of year. The letting go of a high school athlete is a similar important step in a child’s road to independence. Releasing ones child to the game is great therapy for parents, as well.

There are plenty of parents, in this and other communities, who the older they get, the better they were. Not surprisingly, most ex-jocks who talk about how good they were, probably are trying to build up themselves for one simple reason: They weren’t that good. Those parents often try to live their athletic dreams through their children.

Part of the preseason meetings at Hood River Valley High School and Horizon Christian School last week dealt with ways to let a child go. Bruce Brown, a nationally known motivational speaker at high school coaching seminars, offers four ways to let your young athlete go — and help them build confidence at the same time: Don’t do things for your kids that they can do for themselves; encourage healthy risk taking; don’t protect them from failure; and then, release your athlete to the care of the coach.

Brown says there are some red flags for parents who have not released their kids to the game: They continue to live personal athletic dreams through their child; they take credit when their child has done well; they try to solve all the child’s athletic-related problems; they try to continue to coach when the child probably knows more about the game than they do; they take everything too seriously; the athlete avoids parents after the game or is embarrassed about a parent’s involvement; or the athlete is focused on parents for approval or out of fear, and not focused on the game.

There are plenty of things high school athletics will teach your child — among them responsibility, leadership and discipline. Athletes can learn these and more if parents stay out of the way.

So parents, once you get to know your child’s coach, and once trust is established, then release your child. This is their time, not yours. Let your child get what they want out of the game and not what you want them to get. Be proud, of course, but let your kids chart their own athletic path.

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