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The Power of Positivity

Jul. 30, 2020

My oldest daughter, Madison, who is 13, is crazy about soccer. She plays club soccer, watches it daily, trains all the time, reads books about it, is a referee, and talks about what she can do to get better. If it has to do with soccer, she will love it. Her dedication to the sport is amazing and impresses me daily. But let me back up several years and tell you about our journey to get here.

The first season Madison ever touched a soccer ball was the spring season of Kindergarten. We were not a soccer family; I knew nothing about the sport, and my husband had only played a little. It was on a whim that we decided to register her for soccer. If you have ever watched young kids play soccer, it's more like “bunch ball” where they are in one herd and chase the ball all over the field. It’s super cute to watch. This was great; she loved going to practice, even the early morning games.

As she got older, and by older, I mean 9, I found myself critical of the way she was playing. In the car after the games, I would say things to her like, “you weren’t in the right position,” “you didn’t run fast enough,” “when you kicked the ball, your leg looked like a cooked spaghetti noodle!” One day on the way home from a game, I said something like this to her, and I saw her visibly deflate like a balloon. This is the point where God confronted me concerning my words. I looked at myself and realized that what I was saying to a 9-year-old wasn’t right. If I didn’t change the way I was speaking to her, she would end up hating soccer, me, and possibly herself.

She needed coaching, not me belittling her.

That’s when the coaching started. We started with the basics of the right way to run. The coaching became a conversation about what she was doing right and how to make it even better than what she was doing wrong. We started watching soccer on TV and just began to enjoy the sport together. She began asking lots of questions about rules, positioning, and why the players did what they did. When we went to an FC Dallas game, Madison was able to call offsides before the assistant referee called it. That’s when the game began to click.

By the time she was 10½, we would drive down the road and would see the girls for an FC Dallas club team practicing. She would say to me, "mom, I want to be out there someday." I would say to her, “Madison, those girls are really good. You will have to work really hard if you want to be out there, but I know you can do it.”

Madison’s desire to get better exceeded what I was capable of teaching, so we found her a private coach. At first, during the games, she didn’t do what her coach had taught her. Being very careful not to belittle her, I’d ask why. She would tell me she didn’t think she was good enough and was scared. After a lot of practice and encouragement, she began to try new skills in the games. Sometimes the skills were excellent, others not so much. In the ever so important car ride home from a game, my focus of conversation would be when she got something right. I was intentionally trying to build her confidence by focusing on the good, not the bad. Because of these positive conversations, we have developed a solid relationship. When it comes time for a not-so-positive, difficult conversation, whether it involves soccer or not, I have had more positive interactions with her than negative, making these hard conversations easier. She knows how very proud I am of her and all the her hard work. She has found something that she loves, and to think, I could have killed that passion by continually bringing up all the negative ways she was playing the game. So parents, let’s watch our kids do what they love, let’s point out the good more often than we point out the bad.

Here is where I am expected to give you a book to read or a podcast to listen to, but honestly, I generally don’t read parenting books or listen to podcasts. What I do is pray and read the Bible. I talk to God about my child. I ask Him things like: how do I help her, what does she need, how do I become a better parent to her? God always seems to have the answer for me. There are times when she needs a gentle push from me, and other times He will tell me to back off and let her learn on her own what it’s going to take to make the team. I need to help her understand what it means to persevere through tough times, to run the race, and to fight the good fight. So that would be my advice to you, pray for your child, and listen to what God tells you. Just be prepared, God may tell you what you are doing is wrong, and it’s time for a change, just like He did with me.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11

Written by:
Jana Atchley
Compass CV Student Team