Now that the school year is back in full swing, the chaos has returned to the Stenersen household. The challenge of balancing the demands of two careers while coordinating the kids’ schedules gets more daunting every year. I seem to be spending a bit more time with my kids these days, but most of that time is in the car waiting for the bus, driving to the next practice or game, or commuting to school. However you manage it, carving out more one-on-one time with your kids is as essential as it is invaluable…even if your eye contact is a reflection in the rear view mirror. Here are two recent car encounters that took me a bit by surprise.
While waiting for the bus with my almost-thirteen-year-old daughter the other morning, communication unexpectedly broke the silence. She had participated in two lacrosse games as a part of a Fall play-day the previous weekend, and I asked her if she had fun. The conversation opened up suddenly – a rare window we parents need to recognize – and she talked about her style of attack play being more strategic than aggressive. “Why don’t you try going to the goal more,” I asked. “I’m worried about hitting someone with my shot or my follow-through,” was her reply. I paused, contemplated her words, then told her that I was proud of her for understanding the importance of taking responsibility for the safety of players around her. The conversation quickly darted to another topic, but the moment was captured. This brief exchange highlighted one of the most critical issues facing the integrity of women’s lacrosse – the concept of playing under control at all times. If my daughter can understand this important concept, why aren’t more coaches making sure their players do, as well? I’ve seen overly-aggressive players swinging their sticks and throwing their bodies around far too often lately.
A few days later, on the drive to my son’s school, lightening struck again. He was talking about how much fun he was having playing soccer and then, in a segue all too normal for a 6th grader, he asked me if he could play football next year. Now I loved playing football as a kid and even thought about playing in college. But my involvement with our Sports Science & Safety Committee has given me significant insight on concussion injury and, quite frankly, I’m concerned about the possible effects of repetitive helmet-to-helmet contact on developing brains. (A US Lacrosse men's lacrosse rule proposal to severely penalize any contact to a player’s head was recently adopted by the NFHS and NCAA rule committees.) “Well, Daddy, can I play football next year,” he asked. “Let’s focus on this year for now,” I said…and the conversation moved on. “I’m glad I don’t have to play lacrosse in the Fall…I’d get sick of doing the same thing all year long,” my 11-year-old then added. Another special moment recognized and, somehow, I kept my mouth shut and listened. “I like doing different things…it’s a lot more fun,” he added. “I think you’re right, buddy,” I said. “I’m glad you’re having fun playing different sports.” And with that, the brief exchange came to an end as we pulled into school.
I’ve come to realize that the opinions of 6th and 8th graders can be far more important than those expressed by any coach. Kids are certainly not capable of managing their own lives, but they know what’s fun and what they like to do. All we have to do is listen.