My family found that one of the most important benefits (maybe THE most important benefit) of sports for kids is the development of positive character traits. See “Raising an Elite Athlete” for more about encouraging those traits. See “What about Your Kids’ Character?” for resources, including sports resources, on kids’ character development.
So, why should your kids know about Lance Armstrong, who has been given the infamous label by many of “most disgraced athlete” for his role in maybe the biggest performance-enhancing-drug scandal in sports history?
1. The Lance Armstrong story is the perfect cautionary tale.
Lance Armstrong was stripped of all seven Tour de France titles and his 2000 Olympic medal, lost over $75 million in endorsements, faces multiple lawsuits, and is now a figure despised rather than loved by many. “Lance Armstrong May Have Lied to Winfrey: Investigators” from ABC News shares videos from Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in which he admits to lying repeatedly throughout his career and bullying anyone who accused him of lying. And many say he’s still lying about certain issues to protect himself from criminal prosecution.
2. If you want your kids to view sports as about much more than winning, it’s important to discuss issues like Lance Armstrong’s unethical behavior with your kids.
Although coaches and peers can play a huge part in your kids’ views of sports and life in general, you as a parent are still the most important role model for your child. While I don’t recommend talking about Lance Armstrong’s behavior with your kids until they’re elementary age (unless they hear about it and ask for more information), you can help by letting your kids know that hard work and good sportsmanship are more important to you than winning.
3. Kids need to know that “sports heroes” aren’t heroes unless they’re high-quality people.
My kids were lucky as figure skaters to train much of their competitive career at an international training center (the World Arena in Colorado Springs) where they often saw top international skaters when they were young.
I think Will’s and Christina’s experiences training on the same sessions as skaters competing in major events like the Skate America Grand Prix event three years in a row helped them see that not all “sports heroes” are worthy of the label. My husband and I didn’t encourage Will and Christina to place undue emphasis on the top athletes’ titles or to ask athletes for their autographs. Even Christina at age 8 became very aware of which athletes were kind, hard-working people and which were rude people who were much more concerned about what they got than what they could give.
I’m sad for Lance Armstrong’s family and all those who were hurt by his behavior. While I’m glad he helped many cancer patients through the Livestrong Foundation, his sports behavior is simply unacceptable. It doesn’t matter if “everyone else” was doping in cycling.
Figure skating is known for politics and subjective judging, but that doesn’t mean skating parents should encourage their kids to use unfair methods to affect skating judging. I’m proud that my kids learned to work hard, compete fairly, and treat their competitors and others in the sport with kindness.
Will and Christina can treasure every experience and every medal, knowing it was earned. And if they didn’t get as far as they could have by cheating, they know that their parents are more proud of them this way. They know they are loved for who they are rather than how they placed in any event. And they know they can be proud of doing the right thing.
Please give your kids the message that there are much more important things in sports (and life) than winning. It’s one of the best gifts you can give them.
Linked with The Sunday Parenting Party.