It’s that time of year most parents dread. Soccer tryouts. The number bibs and safety pins are stacked, clipboards and pens set aside, coaches lists announced, and the invasion of clubs on social media feeds in full swing.

Last week as my youngest son and I pulled up to the fields I realized I’ve attended soccer tryouts for more years than I can remember. Yet every year I have the same sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Every week I feel the anxiety. Each night I lose sleep.

For most of us it’s the fear of our child facing disappointment. For me it’s always been different. It’s the ever-present question ringing loudly through my head asking, “Is this the path my child should be on? Is this the right choice? Will my child look at me one day and say he wasted too many years on a field? Does he truly love this sport? How do I help him make tough decisions that he might not fully understand?”

I think about all of these things over and over. It’s not the fear of my kid being cut, or being placed on the second team, or falling on his face during speed and agility testing or vomiting in the bushes after sprints. It’s the thought of me messing up his life. It’s me single-handily taking his childhood away.

It’s always been the bigger picture for me. I’m constantly asking myself, what is the best path for my child? Do my kids really want to do this or are they just playing to please me, their coach or their peers? Are they passionate about playing the game or just going through the motions because that’s what they have been told or heard from others they’re supposed to do to play at the highest level? What is their highest level anyway? Am I being honest about their ability? Am I blinded by what other parents are doing?

One night at the end of last week’s tryout something caught my eye as I scrolled through my Twitter feed. Suddenly my feelings were justified and I felt at peace. The words read…

Never sacrifice three things: Your Family. Your heart. Your Dignity.

I realized at that moment my fears weren’t about soccer, they were about life. They were about the importance of keeping family first, encouraging my kids to follow their heart, and praying they would protect their dignity at all costs.

It’s about raising good people. It’s about teaching kids that soccer is not their life and doesn’t define who they are. It’s about showing them that other things in life like family, friends and kindness should always come before their sport even if they lose opportunities. It’s about more than being a number on a roster. It’s about being first in life and following their own path, And most importantly trusting that whatever road they choose will take them to exactly where they need to be.

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