Not everyone loves to watch sports. But every four years (and maaaaybe every two winters), most of us will partake in an Olympics binge. And become a long-time fan of something. Our country, a new sport (rugby sevens or beach volleyball right guys? Or is it synchronized diving ladies?) and of course – the athletes. Amateurs and everyday people take the world for 17 days and some become heroes for every generation. Who will be the next Bolt, Biles or Phelps? For our kids, the Olympics are the opening to a wider world of sports where trampolines and cannonballs can win you medals. And for those that learn to wanderlust from us,the world of travel opens as TV’s make host cities shine and flags they’ve never seen flash across the screen each night. (“Dad, how come Australia and New Zealand have the same flag?” and “Are Canada and Peru related?”).
The Olympics, possibly beyond any other sporting event, infuse the entire world with the excitement, inspiration and admiration that we appreciated as children with a smaller view of our world. These games, through the most basic appeal to our spirit, teach values and plant seeds we want our children to be rooted in.
This year, we visited 3 Olympic Cities by chance and after connecting that to the 2016 games we watched the past two weeks, we thought of some lessons kids learn from the Olympics.
Where it ends for a gold medalist is where it should begin for our kids – at the Olympic podium, with your flag centered high above and the national anthem playing. It’s a sense of pride our children should know and feel deeply, encouraging them to value success but in a way that celebrates who they are, where they came from, and what they did to seek that accomplishment with purpose.
Different from being a proud winner (don’t let your kid be a cocky little S#!@), during the games, confidence is what we see before the competition. Every competitor that toes the line or puts their game face on believes in their ability to succeed. Taught with humility, this is the courage we want our kids to develop, knowing they can prepare to compete and face any challenge with strength.
It’s a lesson applicable to life, not just sports. From toddlers shoving in the sandbox to executives disagreeing in the boardroom, we appreciate fairness, camaraderie and respect. If your kids are like ours, losing is not something they are born to do well. We named a whole stage of life the “terrible twos” because kids are the sorest of losers. Yet, when you can show them for two weeks that not everyone wins, we have a 75% chance of reducing entitlement issues (OK, not a real statistic). Instead, our kids start to understand the values of “good game” when they watch swimmers hug over lane lines and gentle pats on a sandy beach volleyball cheeks as a proper way to concede.
Seriously, if you have kids, please say this out loud with them:JUH – BOOTYEven at 35 years old, its fun to say and funny to hear. It may be one of the only times a kid will ever hear the name of this African country, but no doubt they will remember it. From Opening Ceremonies on, a reality showcase of flags, athlete stories and Olympic flashbacks take us across the world. Our kids hear us cheer against _____________ (insert name of any country you’ve ever had a war with). Then, after echoing us, they ask “why do we want ________ to lose.” So we teach them about the Cold War, Holocaust or political oppression. Then we try to explain the border wars of USSR/Russia and Yugoslavia/Croatia/Czechoslovakia and you’ve prepped kids for AP World History. Really.
Athletes are heroes, for all of us, but especially for kids. They are an image of winning, grace, and success that kids can easily dream of as they jump on couches, dive in pools and sprint through the house. They also do the same with ninja turtles. But athletes are real, and because of that, kids can be like them. In a not too subtle way, our future athletes are encouraged to think about exercise or just playing table tennis which is good for the forearms. As parents, we have the chance to capture them in this moment and to engage them in physical activity and encourage healthy eating as motivation to reach their dreams. It’s a simple formula; EXERCISE + HEALTHY FOOD – PEDs = GOLD MEDAL*
This one is really for us! The entire Olympics are a commercial for every country involved –especially the host city. Across the world, there are past and present cities where Olympic stadiums (some) still stand with the legacy of their games. Olympic (some) parks and villages flourish with events and venues that still draw a crowd. And each one, can easily conjure memories from history, our childhood and inspire dreams in our children. Visit an Olympic city (some) with your kids, tell them the athletes and stories that came to life there and remind them that the world is connected through sport.
So when you look back and feel bad that you spent too much time or not enough time in front of the TV or that you travelled across the world and visited an Olympic park for a quick video like we did, seek comfort in thinking that the lessons kids learn from the Olympics will leave a legacy unlike any other sporting event can.