The new reality we’re all finding ourselves in has upended our lives in many ways. It’s easy to recognize the disruptions that have made our days uneasy, but lately on our team calls we have started to hear about some silver linings peeking through the clouds of confusion, stress and anxiety.
Social distancing is forcing us all to find new ways to connect with our families, friends and co-workers. We’re realizing the importance of our different communities, and how incredibly valuable the people in it are to us all—from teachers and coaches to doctors and nurses to grocery store workers and bus drivers.
Like parents around the world, Wayne McDonnell is dealing with a new normal of working at home with his children. He said it’s easy to get overwhelmed but he is choosing to look at the positives. He’s been thinking about how, when this is over and we return to “normal”, we can apply the lessons we’re learning every day.
The approach Wayne is going to carry forward can be summed up in four words: Refocus, Recharge, Rethink, Reassess.
Here’s how it breaks down.
Refocus: What really matters? Sports? Family? School? How can my children maintain balance and ultimately find happiness? What are the key priorities for my children? Can the current situation give my child a chance to catch up on school and develop new study habits?
Recharge: Is it worth it to be playing on multiple teams and traveling all over the place? Don’t families need time to heal physically, mentally, emotionally? Sometimes, don’t you just need a break from the constant pressures of busy school and extracurricular schedules? Absence does make the heart grow fonder in certain situations.
Rethink: How do we approach youth sports? How do we find balance between sports and family? What works best for my children and family? Are my children playing on the right youth sports teams? Are my children working with appropriate coaches for their physical, mental, and emotional.
Reassess: Where does sports fall into our family’s priorities? Have we put too much pressure on our children when it comes to sports? Are we spending too much money? Will we have enough money going forward to continue playing multiple sports? What are our family’s goals when it comes to youth sports? Is it important if my child is not playing on a certain travel team? Can I be a better sport parent? Can I be more supportive to the coaches? Are my children enjoying their youth sports experience? How can I improve my family’s experience with sports?
We are all going through this together but apart, with no two people having the exact same experience. As we’ve been discussing this as a team, here are some of the silver linings we’ve found in these unusual times.
“My children are spending a lot more time playing together and have a much greater appreciation for one another—this is big!” said Carly Bellis, a working mother of two young children and advisor to inCourage.
“We’re being more creative in terms of activities at home. Before the crisis, we would always look for activities out of the house (zoo, aquarium, etc.), and now we are learning ways we can have a great time from home. I think that will continue even after this is over.”
Angi Varrial reported that her husband is getting to spend more time with their eight-year-old son.
“It’s been great for their relationship and their health. They make lunch together, wolf it down, and then run off to play together like they are both rambunctious eight-year-olds. They shoot hoops or have a catch, and when the weather is bad, they have sit-up and jumping jack challenges. The only one who is enjoying the quarantine more than our son is our dog, who is getting more treats and belly rubs than ever.”
Steve Young, Director of Athletics for the City School District of New Rochelle, New York identified family time together as a bright spot.
“There has been more family time. Families are exercising together, having conversations between parents and kids; taking time to watch a movie,” he said.
“One of the most important things is that families are sitting together for dinner. Hopefully through all of this we can all take a step back, reflect, and be grateful and appreciative for this time spent with family.”
“There has been a refocus and appreciation of family,” said Garland Allen, whose adult son currently lives in China.
”Parents are calling kids, siblings are calling each other, and kids are calling parents just to ask “How are you doing?” There’s also a growing sense of community, we’ve adopted a “we are in this together” attitude. People are looking in on their elderly neighbors and offering to go shopping, for example.”
Garland sees a bright spot for young athletes and their families.
“I’m hopeful that in this new normal where there are very few opportunities for organized activities, kids will have more free time and the flexibility to play, learn to entertain themselves without the fear of adult judgement. Parents will have an opportunity to take a step back and appreciate the importance of valuing their children because of who they are and not because of what they do.”
“One of the most positive outcomes is that everyone is remembering friendships, spouses, coaches, and teams,” according to Dr. Marianne Engle, child and sports psychologist. “We’re taking the time to cook something that was waiting to be tried or read a book lingering by a bedside. There are so many ways to build skills, and many can be done at home or in a safe place nearby.”
Fred Kuntzman is the father of two young adult children, one of whom moved home to quarantine with family.
“If you have access to the space and equipment, this is an opportunity to work on solo skills, like dribbling, free throws, chipping or perhaps having a family game, 2-on- 2, 3-on-3.”
He also notes that, “Dinner isn’t just a time to be together, it’s also an opportunity to teach your children how to cook healthy foods.”
inCourage CEO Ted Shaker is focused on reassessment. “We have recognized in profound ways that playing sports is central in our lives well beyond the for-profit model. The economic impact of the pandemic will bring back more grassroots play and pick-up games which are less expensive. Many families will choose to spend less on for-profit leagues and private coaching. And maybe we’ll all develop new ‘habits’ and ways to stay active without spending a fortune.”
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