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Be the person who breathes life into small-town youth

Show-Me Life: It’s time to rethink how you support kids in your community in sports and life.

Mindy Ward

December 8, 2023

2 Min Read
An adolescent girl dribbles a basketball
LASER FOCUS: My niece Charliegh Spoonster is a freshman and the starting point guard for Clopton High School in Clarksville, Mo. She’s trained for years for this opportunity and has high expectations. No matter the outcome, her family is in her court, quite literally, as No. 33 is her sister Tinleigh.Mindy Ward

The basketball game didn’t go as she planned. Too many missed cues and shots for her liking. You could see it in her body language, walking down the long hall, head hanging low.

As she turned into a classroom, a voice boomed, “Charleigh get your head up. You’re going to look back at this game and see it wasn’t as bad as you’re thinking.”

It wasn’t her coach. It wasn’t even her high school classroom. No, it was the voice of the coach of an opposing team — one she would meet on the hardwood two days later.

Man, the ability to care about a young player, not your player, and then simply breathe life into them when they needed it most, made me pause. If only we were all that way.

This time of year, in small towns across America, rivalries are fought on the basketball court — you know the ones rooted deep in tradition and pride. Our kids are feeling the pressure to perform. But are we giving them the support they need, no matter the outcome?

Change your attitude

Helping kids overcome pressure in sports is crucial for their development and enjoyment of the game. As spectators and parents, we need to do our part. I’m preaching to myself here, but hoping it helps you as well. As a spectator:

Create a supportive environment. From the stands, be positive and encouraging. This year, I’ve vowed not to yell at the referees (baby, steps I know) but it changed my attitude during the game. Instead of looking for the negatives, I try to focus on the positives.

Not just your kid. Encourage all players. It’s hard when you want your kid or, in my case, my nieces and nephew, to be on the floor all the time. But teams win games, not individuals. And all of these players on the bench are your small-town kids — imagine what they can accomplish with unconditional support.

Focus on effort, not just results. All players want the win, why else would they put the time in. Praise effort, hard work and determination, regardless of the outcome. Be the person who helps kids understand that success is a result of continuous hard work and improvement — not just one game.

A note for parents

I know it is hard when you see your kid either sit on the bench or feel the wrath of fellow teammates. Hear me, there is a need to promote mental toughness in your children. Teach them to be resilient, to bounce back from setbacks. But share with them how to maintain a positive attitude in the most challenging situations.

Our kids need us to be that opposing coach who breathes life into them — not just in sports, but all aspects of life.

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About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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