A few years ago, I coached my my oldest son, Ethan in an Upwards Sports flag football league at a church down the street. Going into the league, I decided that I would have him play quarterback or wide receiver. We played a lot of catch in the backyard and he could throw and catch a football pretty well.
When the season started, our team ran the ball a lot. We had some small kids that were pretty fast and we did pretty well.
Every game, Ethan would say “Dad. Let me play running back.” He would beg me several times during the game.
I refused to let him play and here’s why. He was one of the biggest kids on the team and I “knew” that as soon as he took the hand-off from the quarterback and tried to run, he’d have his flag pulled. I’m embarrassed to say that I thought he was too slow and that he wouldn’t succeed. I cared more about winning than letting him try.
After several weeks of having him harass me to play running back, I finally conceded. I thought to myself “Okay, fine. I’ll let him run the ball. As soon as he fails, I can say, ‘This is why I don’t let you play running back.'”
Anyway, I let him line up at running back. We were on our own 20-yard line and had 60 yards to go to score a touchdown. Ethan took the hand-off and ran right. It looked like he was going to run out of bounds about 5 yards down-field and/or he was going to have his flag pulled (“I told you so”).
And then something amazing happened.
He stopped at the sideline and cut back to his left as several kids over ran him in their attempt to pull his flags. He then cut all the way across the field and ran about 20 yards down field before coming to a complete stop again and then cutting to his right and walking into the end zone untouched.
It was awesome. He scored a touchdown on his first career run. As the coach, I was standing directly behind him on the field so I had a perfect view of the whole thing. As a parent, It was one of my most proud AND humbling moments (at the same time) of my life. I just about tripped over my jaw because it was definitely on the ground.
Over the course of the rest of the season, Ethan played a lot of running back and probably averaged two touchdowns a game. He did a wonderful job and our team was better because of him.
I still have moments where I don’t let my kids do things or I doubt their abilities. As a parent, I want to protect my kids from failing or being embarrassed. I think it’s more about us than them. I’m learning and trying to be better about it.
If I worry about them failing too much, I’m not giving them the chance to succeed.