Today my kids will drag themselves out of bed and head back to school. Unfortunately, our back to school season is clashing with another major world event happening right now – the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. So there will be no more 10-hour, lying on the couch veg-out sessions, flipping back and forth to the many channels of Olympic coverage.
I have to admit I love the summer Olympics. I can do without the opening and closing ceremonies, which I know many people love. But I’ll take anything and everything else that happens. The Olympics are a sports enthusiasts dream.
My love affair with the Olympics started in 1984 when they were hosted by Los Angeles. I was 11 years old and still remember being in awe of the athletic performances. If you are under the age of 25 and have never heard of Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Mary Lou Retton, Greg Louganis or the Zola Budd collision you need to spend some time on YouTube. Great athletes with great performances in a great atmosphere.
Now I’m raising four kids who are growing up in an age where there is a greater variety of Olympic events and they have greater access to them. There weren’t 7 stations broadcasting the competitions in those days. And we certainly didn’t have streaming options via computer or mobile phone app.
So far my kids are eating this up. There have only been a few days of Olympic coverage but they are fixed in the TV room, cheering the USA on at every turn. I’m usually one to limit TV and computer viewing because I don’t think it’s healthy for kids to be looking at a screen all day.
But here is why until the Olympics are over I’ll be stretching the viewing limits and bedtimes a little farther even with school being in session.
Kids Need to Watch the Olympic Coverage
Even if your kids don’t like sports there is value in them watching as much Olympic coverage as possible. Here are three reasons I can think of:
Part of the Olympics for me has always been about patriotism – cheering on the country with which you identify. That’s why the name on the jersey says USA or Brazil or China or Qatar. They play for themselves but they represent us. When that athlete wins, we all win in a small way. When they do something extraordinary it lifts our spirit and makes us proud of our country.
We can always use some positive, uplifting moments that help us remember who we are and what the USA stands for. Things like freedom, equality, work ethic, perseverance and drive just to name a few. You may not see those qualities through Olympic competition but they really resonate with me.
Read the word diversity and you immediately think race, culture or gender. The Olympic coverage does help bring those things to the forefront. We learn many things about the host country and from the men and women competing who grow up in other cultures.
In this context though I’m using the term to mean diversity of opportunities. There are so many events to compete in. It’s not all about the major sporting events like track and field, gymnastics and swimming,
Don’t get me wrong – those are all great. But I want my kids to see the lesser known events. I want them to appreciate the precision of the archers and the divers. To be in awe of how table tennis is played. To marvel at the massive water polo bodies that have to tread water while fighting off an opponent. To feel the pain of a cyclist going up a hill.
It may seem odd to you that this is important to me. Here’s why it is: it opens their minds to new things. They’ve never seen some of this stuff before. And you never know what might spark their brain and drive them to excellence.
Four years ago, 19-yr. old Ginny Thrasher had never fired a gun. She went on a hunting trip with her grandfather and became hooked with shooting. A few days ago she bagged something much more valuable than a white-tailed deer – a gold medal in the 10-m air rifle competition.
New experiences can be a life changing event for your child. Maybe, like Ginny, it will drive them to dream.
The final reason I will let my kids watch tons of Olympic coverage is that I want them to dream of what they might be able to do if they put their mind to it.
When I was in high school, I dreamed of playing college basketball and then maybe the NBA. I watched basketball all winter long. College or pro…you name it, it was on our TV.
Of course, I didn’t make it, not even at the college level. Maybe if I’d spent more time playing and less time watching things would have turned out different. But at least I had a dream. And that dream actually did push me to become a pretty descent high school player and lead our team to a private school state championship.
Sadly, I think dreaming is a lost art for many kids today.
We spend so much time focusing on the negative that it discourages our kids. They see the state of their world and think they can’t accomplish anything. Pushing oneself seems like a futile endeavor because there are so many barriers to success. So they resign to a substandard life that requires as little effort as possible to get by.
I want my children to have dreams and pursue them with effort. Letting them watch the Olympic coverage can drive this positive message home. They will see athletes who have worked for years fulfilling their dream. They will also see how athletes deal with failure and yet vow to keep working for the next Olympics. They won’t quit pursuing their dream of a gold until it becomes physically impossible to do so.
I hope you enjoy watching the Olympic coverage with your family. We’ve already had some pretty cool moments together. And maybe in the end that’s the best reason of all to watch the Olympics with your kids – memories and family time. That’s definitely worth some extended weeknight bedtime hours.
Questions for Discussion: Do you plan to watch any of the Olympic coverage? What’s your favorite event to watch? If you could participate in any Olympic event what would it be? What is your favorite Olympic moment of all time?