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What I Learned from Football

My Dad loved to play football. I was about 7 years old when I really started to become pretty good at it because my dad and I played football every weekend. I remember when he threw the ball at me, it would hit me right in the chest. I remember my surprise, like yesterday, as I heard the thump on my chest and saw the look on my Dad’s face.

I was expecting him to give me sympathy; instead, I got a “Wow, Tina, great job pulling that ball into your chest.”

But Daddy it hurts,” I said.

“Well, that’s only because you focused on the pain and not the fact that you succeeded in catching a long pass that most older kids could not have caught. You are tough,” he said. My Dad’s compliment gave me so much confidence!

This is the first lesson I remember learning about resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back despite how hard something “hits you”. Those football games in the “concrete jungle” outside of Washington, DC, were the learning ground for what I needed in life.

“You’re okay, Tina. Get back up,” were the words that I had grown used to. The confidence that my Dad had in my abilities as an athlete was also something I would grow accustomed to.

Our children need to see and feel our confidence in their abilities. They need us to teach them that it’s okay to feel fear and pain, and at the same time, be reassured that we as parents will always be there to support their falling and getting back up again.

The Delicate Balance

We, as mentors and parents, have a BIG responsibility in keeping a delicate balance between teaching resilience and showing compassion. Going overboard on the Leadership skill of resilience may cause our children to resent us. Encouraging them through hard obstacles is very different from frustrating them by seeming to focus only on their inabilities.

Over the last 30 years of teaching, there is one thing I know to be very true:

Children learn confidence when they try to do something new that is hard, and keep doing it until the hard thing becomes easy and fun!

As with many parents, I have fallen to the tendency to want to provide and protect my children from pain. I would catch myself wanting to jump in and rescue them… because for some strange reason, I “wanted to be needed”. Unconsciously I may have been limiting my children’s ability to gain confidence in themselves. More than needing protection, my children need me to help them form the habit of resilience that will enable them to be confident and stand up victorious, despite life’s challenges.

Here are 5 things to teach your children about resilience:

  • Power of intention – Teach our children to strive towards excellence in all they do, to find joy in pursuing a project with passion.

  • Become your best self – To compete is to win; teach them how to compete with others and with themselves. They and the other team can both learn from every game, regardless of what the scoreboard says at the end. Competing is about becoming your best self, not about winning and losing. (Please never blame referees or coaches. There is no growth in blame!)

  • Give a Praise Sandwich: Praise-Correct-Praise – Compliment their efforts; correct their behavior, and praise them when they finish. Be sure to celebrate their attitudes and their efforts because those are the ONLY things they can control.

  • They are not a victim of circumstances – Give your children opportunities to make their own decisions, and then hold them accountable to the results of their choices. This will help our children develop personal responsibility so they will not be trapped in depending on others to provide for their futures.

  • Never quit – Encourage your children to do something hard until it becomes easy and fun and don’t allow them to quit.

Teaching children resilience will help them grow up into confident leaders. It’s so important that we model confidence and resilience for our children. I am partnering with my daughter, Tiffany Rave, to bring you insights on confidence. Go to her blog at to learn more about how you can model this life skill for your children.

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