Charting a course through the meandering world of parenting in performance sports has been made a little clearer with an Okotoks author's new guidebook.
Experienced coach, team leader and teacher Steve Lloyd has ventured into the world of publishing with the release of The Game is Hard Enough: A Guide for Performance Sports Parents.
Lloyd joked it took him the past 45 years worth of experiences to write the book noting the impetus took hold when he got involved in baseball full-time with Coyote Youth Baseball and Cal Ripken Canada programs.
“I started to realize that parents really need help,” he said. “And it’s arrogant to say so, but where my wife and I thought we were just average sports parents, we weren’t.
“And part of that goes to my background with high performance sport, as an athlete, and coaching and managing with the different programs I was with.”
Around 12 years ago, he began offering workshops for parents of teams he coached and put together presentations.
Fast forward to the past two years and he got more encouragement from his friends and colleagues across North America to put pen to paper on the book.
“About seven months ago, when I decided I didn’t want to go back to substitute teaching, I started to really dedicate myself to this writing process,” he said. “Then you have to overcome the perfectionism. I think all of us as writers and creators, when we get closer to that time period that pretender syndrome starts to kick in.
“Then my (son's) college coaches called me up and I talked to Greg Hamilton and they said, ‘You’ve done this, get this out there.’”
Many of the stories focus on the author’s relationship with his son Matt, a high-level baseball player who came through the Okotoks Dawgs Academy ranks into collegiate baseball at Iowa Western and Indiana University before moving his way up the minor league ladder with the Cincinnati Reds organization.
Lloyd is an unabashed supporter of multi-sport athletics for as long as possible with the caveat that at some point the sport will choose you.
“There was a benefit to Matthew, as an athlete and as a competitor, in playing other sports, especially basketball,” he said. “Because he was a relentless defender, he could match up and competed whether he was playing at point guard or five.
“That individual commitment to competing changed how he approached pitching because he was out there he knew there was no excuses behind him, he had to compete with just me and this guy.”
Topics discussed in the book include the importance of makeup, finding your Yoda, the problem with boxscore statistics, how to cost your kid a scholarship and what Lloyd calls the perils of encouragement.
“Because, ‘Not everything is OK Johnny’ and kids know,” he said. “You can fool a fool, you can con a con, but you can’t kid a kid and they know.”
An important differentiation Lloyd makes during the text is that of impact versus imprint, the former leading to bruising, changing and damage with the latter the preferred term for the affect of our behaviours. The ubiquitous term ‘potential’ is also a problematic word for the author.
“As Immanuel Kant said, ‘Water takes the shape of the glass, not the shape of the water,’” Lloyd said. “So I can pour whatever I want, but if they’re receiving it that way it’s going to bring damage.
“And my friend who’s a VP at an oil company told me, ‘Everything is hard enough. You could have changed the word game and made it about any aspect of work or life.’ There are challenges out there, our kids are facing unprecedented times.”
Another misconception he, and many of his contacts in youth sports, fights against is the notion that kids are different than those of bygone eras.
“Kids are the same,” he said. “Now what is different is the social constructs around them, what is different about them is the predisposition that so many families have to try and buy their children’s compliance instead of teaching them character and structures along the way.
“What’s changed is what they’re being exposed to. We see it in education, we see it in sport, in some regards being manifested in social services and the justice system, where as a society we don’t know how to call people into account for their choices.
“There’s less and less accountability around things that really matter.”
Building off his years coaching and teaching, a run that seen him work with over 200 athletes who have ascended to the ranks of collegiate sports, Lloyd said the book is also a means of giving back to sport on a more macro level.
“I’ve been blessed with a level of experience and insight, and my wife and daughter’s opinions’ notwithstanding, I’m a pretty adept listener,” he said with a laugh. “When Matt was being recruited and even more than that, talking to baseball coaches, basketball coaches, football people, ‘Who are the young men and women you want to have come play for you and what gets in the way of that?’”
The feedback has been positive with Lloyd hearing from college programs stating they want all the parents of recruits over the next five years to read the text.
“It’s just an honour to have men and women around the country and have people finally feel like this is the incarnation of articulation that’s going to aide them in telling parents, ‘This is what you need to think about, this is where you need to step back, this is where you need to be,’” he said.
“I don’t want to use the term it’s a responsibility, but we do have a responsibility to be the village that help raise a child.”
The anecdotes, lessons and teachings in the nearly 300-page book can apply beyond the sports diaspora, Lloyd added.
“It started as a baseball book, but then I realized all (Matt’s) basketball stuff, and all other athletes in there as well,” he said. “But it is for musicians, for dancers, for artists and parents, if they embrace that same perspective that it’s the journey, it’s the joy of the journey.”
The Game is Hard Enough can be purchased at Okotoks’ Yooneek Books and Tailgate Mercantile as well as on Amazon.
For more information go to thegameishardenough.ca.