By Dene Eller
Recently my 11 year old, sports loving son and I decided to sit down together and watch “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” – an uplifting, sentimental (and surprisingly sports related) story of a childless couple who desperately want to have a baby of their own. After a sad and unfortunate visit to their fertility doctor they learn that, despite their efforts, it would be impossible for them to ever conceive. Heartbroken and looking for a way to try and cope with the news, they go home and decide to write down all the qualities they had wished for in a child onto a slip of paper. Once they’ve finished, they put the paper in a box and bury it in the garden. That night a storm unexpectedly passes and, to their astonishment, the husband and wife wake up the next day to find a muddy 10-year-old boy named Timothy in their kitchen. To make an already bizarre situation even more strange, Timothy – a child neither the husband nor wife has ever met before — refers to the couple as mom and dad.
Despite being thoroughly confused, the Greens decide to take in the young boy and determinedly pass off Timothy as their newly adopted son. However loveable, the boy is indeed odd — both innocent and knowing, he manages to teach his new parents what a magnificent gift it really is to have a child. He’s not short of eccentricities, with his strange habit of basking in the sunlight (sounds like one of my right fielders) along with a spray of snip-proof leaves sprouting from each ankle. He may be odd, but these qualities of his are what make him special and a unique little miracle to his parents – just like any other child is a unique little miracle to their parents. Timothy is strange, yes, but the Greens wouldn’t want him any other way.
Unbeknownst to his parents, one of his leaves falls off each time he fulfills one of the qualities or achievements listed on the original slips of paper – one of those achievements being to score a game winning goal, which he ultimately ends up doing (however, not exactly as planned). As it turns out, both parents had unfulfilled sports successes and hoped for a child who could accomplish what they hadn’t.
It’s easy to see why Timothy’s parents would encourage him to be active in sports. Playing sports as a child, whether for fun outside with your friends during a bright summer day or competitively on a team, creates a sense of belonging and an understanding of how to work both as a leader and in a group. It’s easy to get caught up in technology and want to stay inside, especially now with all sorts of gadgets that can easily catch a child’s eye. But try encouraging your kids to get outside and kick or throw a ball with you, even if they may not seem that interested at first. Of course you shouldn’t force them, but encourage them to at least try – you never know, they might uncover a hidden love for sports that they never even knew they had. Plus if you’re the person they play sports with, it’s a wonderful way to bond, spend time together and create memories or traditions that they could pass on to their children.
There are many reasons to give sports a go; there are a bounty of benefits, but the main one in my opinion is that sports make for a happier, healthier child – physically, mentally and emotionally. Children who play sports suffer from depression less and tend to have much higher self-esteem and a better body image. They quickly realize that sometimes you’re not going to win and you know what? That’s perfectly okay. They’re also a lot less likely to use drugs or smoke cigarettes. Playing a sport has taught them what an incredible machine their body is and they know to think twice before jeopardizing the abilities they’ve developed. These qualities and this mindset will make life much easier and enjoyable for them when they grow up. Participating in sports is also a great way to release some of that built up energy, which means less arguing around bedtime!
As viewers we got to share in their long-awaited joys and trials of parenthood. There are numerous “we are sorry” expressions made to Timothy by these deeply caring, enthusiastic, well meaning adults in regards to what they willingly declare as poor parenting. As parents, it’s okay to acknowledge that we’re not perfect and are going to make mistakes from time to time. We’re all merely humans who are learning, by trial and error, how to do the right things in life and set a good example. But as long as you stay supportive of your children and let them know that you love them and you’re doing the best you can — that’s what counts. Genuine love and enthusiasm of being a parent trumps perfection any day.
To distract this pre-adolescent boy from a girl who has suddenly come on the scene, the parents go about convincing the home town coach to allow the physically awkward and “odd” Timothy to join the soccer team. On his first day of practice, after several missed kicks which land Timothy on the ground, the coach barks, “Green whattaya got to say for yourself?” to which Timothy’s immediate but shy response is: “I can only get better?” which is a wonderful way of thinking, even if Timothy doesn’t realize it. Children should learn early on that even though you may not be good at something at first, you can always improve. They should be encouraged to keep their head up and not let their inability to do something perfectly right away get to them. Perseverance and determination are key in being a happy child and growing up to be an equally happy and successful adult.
Timothy occupies the bench all season, spending his time feeding the coach and his Grandpa cups of water on the sidelines. Finally, a chance to play comes up later on with an injury to a key player. There is much at stake as the championship game is tied 1-1. Strict playing orders are delivered by the Coach to just stand in one place and not move. This game plan works for a while until he is powered up by the sunlight and, when the ball comes near, he begins dribbling toward the goal and eluding the other team’s defense. Just as time is running out, he sends a perfect kick into the corner of the goal — unfortunately belonging to the other team. Timothy shot the winning goal! Sure it was for the other team, but he shot a goal just like on the wish list nonetheless! Life mission complete.
There is much to be learned about how to become and act as an encouraging parent, and even perhaps a Coach, from an “odd” but gifted child with a bright spirit. As a Coach & MOM, initiate a Heart-To-Heart conversation at the beginning of each season with your sports enthusiast. Set reasonable expectations together about all aspects of the game. Let them know that doing their best and having fun is what counts — not how many goals they make or how high the score is in the end. Center your ongoing mini “coaching” chats on giving meaning to the true joys of sports participation: The 3 “Es”. Excitement. Enthusiasm. Effort. Keeping your kid(s) in the game with encouraging words and the 3 “Es” will create: Exceptional!
Speak encouragingly and remind them before and after every game that you love, accept and are proud of them regardless of who wins the game. They should know that their happiness is what matters and if they had a good time playing, then they’re the winners in the end – who cares what the final score was?
On the way home is a great time to initiate a mini “coaching” chat – as long as there are no electronics to distract them and there are plenty of great snacks to nibble on. During this time you need to remind them that it’s all about loving the sport and not the score. Revisit the mini “coaching” chat about giving your personal best in the present, having fun with friends and putting your body in motion. And just as importantly, partner with a Coach that shares your same values.
Oh and MOM (or DAD)…don’t forget the snacks!
Win The Moments,
Simply ExtraOrdinary Coaching
Dene Eller, PHD is the mom of two active children who are both sports enthusiasts. Dr Dene has coached a variety of sports for various ages for over 30 years and is an active volunteer Kidsports Coach here in Eugene. She would be happy to share her wisdoms about coaching-parenting sports minded kids, chat about success coaching principles, keeping your sports’ stars (MOM’s too!) healthy and super fed for optimal performance. You can find her at drsuccesscoach.com or send an email to [email protected]