There is the stereotype that if you’re a runner, you’re the type of person who celebrates all forms of healthy living. They say you treat your body like a temple. Now some runners have a habit of taking training—or ourselves—very, very seriously. Any pursuit – career, music or sports— can lend itself to be taken too seriously. Our sense of importance tends to inflate the more we invest in something. It’s not just that we think it’s important, we want other people to see it (and us) that way. It becomes the “thing” by which we define ourselves. This can change a sport, a job or a pastime that we enjoyed and turn it into a grind. Don’t take yourself, your decisions, your interests, your outcomes or even your mistakes so seriously because its not important. Marcus Aurelius, considered one of the most adored Emperors in Roman history, ruled from 161 to 180 A.D. and has maintained the reputation for being the “philosopher king.” He naturally was one of the most important person in the world at the time, but he wrote to himself repeatedly reminding himself that he was, in reality, not that big of a deal.
Youth and underage sport in Ireland over the last ten or fifteen years has seen the explosive growth of the number of highly selective, highly competitive sports teams (the so-called elite, select, premier and Development teams), and the trend toward early specialisation. Children are involved in these “academies” as young as 7, 8 and even 9 years of age, with some playing a single sport all year-round and excluding all others. Gone are the days when sport was seasonal – autumn and winter was rugby or soccer and spring and summer was GAA. Parents, coaches and clubs are desperate to get ahead of the rest. It’s the attempt to isolate any available players early and prevent any potential athletic talent enjoying or excelling at other sports for fear of losing them to it!
The arrival of helicopter parenting has meant that the side lines of Irish sporting fields are now bustling with eager and sometimes fanatical parents. Many take the participation of their kids in underage sport very seriously and it’s become outcome focussed. Some convinced that their little charge is destined for greatness in their chosen sport – the next “Messi” or Brian O’Driscoll. The sad reality is that it’s very likely that they won’t – of the 1.5 million players who are playing organised youth football in England at any one time only 180 will make it as a Premier League pro. That’s a success rate of 0.012%. -TINY! In the sporting world by the law of averages, most of us are typically, profoundly average and so are our children. Now that’s hard to read and even more difficult for some to accept. Most of us and them will never be more than average. Can we be content with that? We are all born with different aptitudes and potentials. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Even if someone excels in one area the chances are they’re pretty average or below average at most other things. That’s just the nature of life. To become truly great at something, you have to dedicate time and energy to it. And because we all have limited time and energy, few of us ever become truly exceptional at more than one thing, if anything at all, and that’s ok! Our culture, driven by social media, now values high achievement over participation and fun. We need brilliant careers, accomplished children, perfect bodies, and financial affluence. It is almost reprehensible to be satisfied with “just enough”.
Sometimes the only way to stop taking yourself too seriously is to do ridiculous things ……. Because if you are beginning to think that either your own sporting endeavours or that of your child are very important you need to take a break from it , try something just for the “laugh” a little more, have fun and do things that you think are not so important.