The Olympics come but every four years but the nearly two weeks of events can be a great time for parents to connect with children in front of the TV. And not only can a family share as spectators to some of the great sport achievements in our lifetimes, as parents, we can use the Olympics as a teaching moment.
The Olympic events are an opportunity to teach our children about some of the possibilities that come from years of dedication and hard work. And while not all of our children will rise to Olympic heights just through hard work and dedication … talent and some luck play a role too … but there are so many individual stories behind these athletes. The network TV coverage of the Olympics can certainly be criticized, but share the athlete portraits that TV does so well with your children! These athletes in most instances have overcome obstacles … injuries, financial sacrifice, time away from family and friends. All one has to do is listen to Evan Lysacek talk about taking up skating at age 8 – a sport (at first hockey) in which he thought he finally could beat his older sister. His entire family was in the stands cheering wildly for him.
Lindsey Vonn, skiing with an injured shin … she had a spectacular victory but then heartbreak with a missed gate in the next competition. This is an opportunity to talk about the failures. Not all sporting events end up with the “good guy (or gal)” getting a gold medal. The moment gives parents the opportunity to talk about how, on any given day or in any given race, there might be one (or more) athletes who are better. But explain that the outcome does not mean that Lindsey Vonn is not a great skier. She just was not the best in that moment or in that race.
As a parent of daughters who have competed in team sports for years, the real value may be in the talking about the “team” aspect of the Olympics. Each athlete is working their hardest for the ultimate team, our country. When a commentator asks an athlete what they plan to do after their event is over, invariably you hear the athlete talk about taking in a Team USA hockey game or taking in ice skating or skiing events. And frankly, the network does not keep putting up the medal count for nothing. The nations do compete, if you will, for achieving a high number of medals. It speaks to the efforts of the entire nation in supporting our athletes.
But the Olympics also can give parents an opportunity to talk about losing with grace. The example of Russia’s attitude toward Evan Lysacek’s victory is a perfect example of poor behavior on the part of the Russian star. He’s simply a “bad loser”. He’s a great example of how we would not want our children to behave. And Lysacek has given parents a great example of “taking the high road”. The comeback of Bode Miller is also a wonderful example for children. In the last Olympics in Italy, Miller was a misbehaving, bad-boy with a reputation for hard-partying and a lot of attitude. He did not meet anyone’s expectations in Torino, including his own. He could have disappeared into ski retirement, but instead, he sought vindication in Vancouver. His mature attitude toward the sport, the training necessary, the performance has garnered him the fame that eluded him four years ago. His good behavior has been rewarded with 2 silver medals (to date) and accolades from his peers and from fans.
The Olympic games give parents an opportunity to share some good TV and compelling stories with our children. It does not matter whether our children will grow up to be Olympic athletes one day or not, the Olympics provide a time for a family to share in the triumphs of years of hard work and to share in the disappointments of the athletes who have also sacrificed and worked so hard to see their Olympic dreams fall just short, this time. Spend some time in front of the TV as a family … there’s still time.