Friday, January 3, 2014

When an Intervention is at the Cost of Opportunity

When an Intervention is at the Cost of Opportunity 
Every parent is at one time or another faced with the question of when to or not to intervene in their child's decisions. Is the criteria you use to decide when to intervene based solely on life or death? Or is this one of those questions that must be decided on a situation by situation basis?

There are life-altering choices and choices that may seem life-altering but really aren't in the bigger picture.

Now, imagine that your teenage daughter is a high level athlete in a team sport. She's about to make a call in a provincial final that you believe is the wrong call. And you believe your option is the better call. Do you intervene?

I have a friend who is the father of an exceptional curler. His daughter and her team mates have already represented our province and our country in her sport. For the sake of time and space, we'll assume that in this case my friend is not living vicariously through his child.

This year, though, my friend is blaming himself for a loss at a chance for his daughter's team to represent our province yet again. All because he decided not to speak up in favour of a shot he thought the team should opt for in one of the ends being played in the finals.

Instead, my friend chose to stay quiet when the coach offered up his strategy. A strategy that proved less than desirable, based on the outcome. And now he's kicking himself for "letting his daughter down."

If you've read any of my blog posts, it's not a great leap to believe that I do not share in my friend's interpretation of how things played out. And I don't.

Firstly, by stepping aside, he did not publicly question the the coach's choice for a shot in that end, which kept the coach's integrity intact during the game. This also did not create confusion in the mind of his daughter and her team mates.

Secondly, no matter what the coach offered as an option, it was still up to the team to decide what the call should be. Yes, I'll admit that as teenagers, they would likely accept the coach's call. Even though it was different from the call they were originally looking at. But it still required them, as a team, to considered both shots...then make the call. Adding a third option from a second adult would likely have created more angst than options, since the team would have had to decide which adult to listen to.

Thirdly, (sorry people) winning cannot always be the goal. Yes, it's possible that my friend's option could have won them the game, but at what cost considering my first two points above? Not to mention the value that losing a key game can bring to one's experience.

It's this third point I really want to focus on.

We learn more by experiencing on a deeply emotional level than we ever do by someone giving us all or even some of the answers. And as adults, most of us already know this. Trouble is, we don't want our children to face losing, especially when the big-title game is on the line. But when we DO step aside during such times, that's when our children gain the most in experience.

Failure can be a huge motivator, if handled well by the support system that is available. Namely, my friend.

It's in the loss of that big game that my friend's daughter will likely learn the most about strategy. And this can really be brought to the forefront when my friend can act as a voice of experience. He can be more of a strategic influence in her life after the loss than he would have been had he made the choice to intervene during the game.

So I disagree with my friend. He did not let his daughter down by staying quiet. Rather, he opened the door to an opportunity for her and her whole team to become better and well-rounded curlers in the future. And that's what being a father is really all about.

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  1. When she and her team are standing on the podium at some future Olympics waiting to receive their gold metal they will not even remember this game, even though it is a step in a long process to greater success.

    1. True, Anonymous. She and her team likely wouldn't be thinking of that lost game when accepting gold medals at a future Olympics. What I'm really saying here is that the process of losing heartbreaking games like the one mentioned above may well be the impetus that drives them to the Olympic podium in the first place.


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