Tag Archive | family sports

REAL Sports Heroes

Sports wordle

By Karen Hendricks

Are you an avid sports fan? We all have our favorite teams, our favorite sports—NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, college football, and the list goes on. I grew up just outside Philadelphia which means I will forever cheer for the Phillies and Eagles. It’s in my blood!

“Professional” Sports?

Over the past few years, like a lot of fans, I’ve become disillusioned by the off-field antics and more seriously, crimes, of professional athletes. Their skyrocketing salaries, crazed celebrity status, and unrealistic ticket prices have also affected me. I’m generalizing here, and of course there are exceptions. But very few wonderfully talented athletes seem to maintain “real” lifestyles including a healthy balance of family life. There are so very few real heroes.

Youth Sports Step Up to the Plate

But for about the past 10 years, all three of my children have been involved in sports activities. And there is no greater experience—for both the kids and us as parents. This is where my heart now lies; professional sports, step aside!

My children’s involvement with sports began with AYSO soccer, a wonderful program that teaches basic soccer skills and good sportsmanship. There are hundreds of AYSO programs in communities across the country—all run by volunteers, mostly parents like you and I. Soccer is an awesome sport that not only encourages physical fitness because it includes a good amount of running, but it also enforces the importance of teamwork.

Other sports my kids have enjoyed include:

  • Tennis – This is a great, life-long sport and included some of the best-mannered high school girls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
  • Track — Similar to soccer, I believe all kids can benefit from the simple exercise of running. Although kids are competing as part of a team, there’s also the personally rewarding aspect of competition with yourself—to continually beat your personal records (PR’s).
  • T-Ball and Coach/Pitch Baseball

The vast majority of coaches, parents and teammates we’ve met through the years have been amazing, inspiring, supportive and positive people!

photo (10)

My son Kyle has a beautiful stride on the track!

Take the Good with the Bad

We’ve had a few brushes with ugly situations along the way… parents getting out of control on opposing teams, parents at my son’s AYSO games using profanity, and situations involving my husband who is a referee—one of the most thankless jobs there is. Even going back to kindergarten, during the days of co-ed AYSO soccer, there was a boy who punched my daughter in the stomach because he couldn’t accept the fact that my daughter scored on him! This past year, we’ve had several situations with one of my daughter’s 14-year old teammates as well as the girl’s mother, acting out of jealousy over my daughter’s talents; the mom even resorted to sending me “hate mail.” Craziness! But put into perspective, they are all life lessons—chances for us as parents to model good character, take the high road, and lead our kids by example through difficult situations with real life lessons.

Sweet Victories

As a parent, there is no greater joy than seeing all the hard work and practice that your children pour into sports pay off when they achieve their goals on the soccer field, tennis court, track, etc. There are enormous mountains and valleys that we, as parents, see our children through. I have encouraged my kids to stick with sports during tough times when they’ve wanted to quit, and there have even been heart-breaking injuries that required physical therapy and time to mend. All of those struggles make the victories that follow, even sweeter. And by “victories,” I don’t necessarily mean “wins” in terms of the score. My husband and I simply try to encourage our kids to always do their best in all things—sports, school, and in situations requiring good character. Those are life’s real victories.

IMG_4548c web

My daughter Kelly, in action on the soccer field!

Now, on the rare occasion when I watch professional sports, the games seems empty and meaningless. Nothing keeps me on the edge of my seat more than watching my own children and their teammates compete, struggle, persevere and excel. Quite often, it brings tears of joy to my eyes! Which is why I feel as though our youth are the TRUE heroes within today’s sports community.

What are your children’s experiences with sports? How have sports benefited their character development? How do their sports experiences affect you as a parent? What do you think of professional sports? I’d love to hear your thoughts….


Karate is More Than Self Defensive

Nick received his First Degree Black Belt last spring.

Nick received his First Degree Black Belt last spring.

By Jen Ashenfelter

Karate may not be the right sport for every child but it was the perfect activity for my oldest son. Now training for his second degree Black Belt, this story began 7 years ago at Action Karate in New Britain, PA.

Nick had played intramural soccer and t-ball but didn’t really enjoy either. As an active young boy, he had plenty of skill in running, kicking and throwing, but team sports did not appeal to him. Even today, he’s not the least bit interested in watching sports on television or attending a sporting event.

In third grade, Nick was a smart, well-behaved student. However, focus in the classroom was a challenge, as was socializing with the other kids. He was never diagnosed with autism; he just had a different idea of how he wanted to spend the day.

When a winter after-school club program offered karate lessons, Nick expressed an interest so I jumped at the chance to sign him up. He really enjoyed going to classes twice a week and in less than two months, he was officially a martial arts student learning much more than just Kenpo karate.

The curriculum at the Action Karate schools centers on teaching students focus and control, discipline, self-confidence, goal setting, self-defense and leadership with an emphasis on good grades, good deeds and respect in a supportive atmosphere.

Involvement with martial arts is not just an activity; it’s a lifestyle, a way of thinking. Nick embraced the journey with commitment and has worked through expectations and challenges with complete determination, grace, and even a little prodding. The program helped Nick develop better focus in the classroom and hopefully has given him the confidence and resources to handle the pressures he’ll likely face during his teen and young adult years. Oh, and then there’s that Chuck Norris thing—no doubt he can defend himself with swift moves to serve up a serious punishment to the offender. Go ahead and give him a surprise bear hug from behind and see where you land.

In the process, I’ve learned more about managing expectations and reaching goals. As we encourage, and sometimes push, our children to do better, it’s difficult not to be inspired by their determination and achievements. How can I put expectations on my children for their best effort if I don’t expect the same from myself? Learning is a two-way street: our children learn from us and often what they give back is greater.

Three years into the program, Nick received his Junior Black Belt during an action-packed and moving ceremony. My eyes filled with tears of pride at his accomplishments. And three years later, he was awarded his First Degree Black Belt. It was a six-year journey of growth, learning and facing challenges for a lifetime of skills and tools to accomplish anything he puts his mind to.

Nothing puts a smile to my face faster and brings back sweet memories than watching a class of younger students and then watching Nick’s masters class to realize how far we’ve come. My wish for the parents of the new students: the same awesome feelings seven years from now.

It doesn’t matter what sport or activity your son or daughter participates in just as long as they are having fun and learning valuable life skills. Whether it’s karate or baseball or playing an instrument, encourage them to find a passion, stick with it during challenging times and celebrate the accomplishments great and small.

Has your child’s life been transformed through the study of karate? Feel free to share your stories and/or advice, by clicking “leave a comment” below: