The Show, The Man, The Problem
Twenty-two years after Michael Jordan’s final championship with the Chicago Bulls, the world was finally able to get a behind the scenes documentary about what life was really like for the greatest basketball team in sports’ history. It would be hard to pick a better time than during quarantine for audiences to have eyes glued to the television, soaking in the fan mentality, just like that fateful final season. For this article, I just want to focus on the first two episodes.
Episode One sets up a tumultuous atmosphere for a reason: to show not only the dichotomy of a team being held to excessively high standards but also to represent the drama within Jordan himself. As his high school coach exclaims: “Michael Jordan’s the only player that could ever turn it on and off … and he never turned it off (NBC Action News, 2020).” He was a man who exhibited passion and focus and demanded the same in others. This becomes even clearer when we see Jordan adjusting to the flashy sports lifestyle of team parties after a sober upbringing. He had spent so much time only living and breathing basketball, who he was going in direct opposition to his surroundings.
Episode Two just reinforces this theme of competitive focus further with Michael Jordan’s own father stating “If you want to bring out the best in Michael, tell him he can’t do something, or he can’t do it as good as somebody else” (NBC Action News, 2020). The best example where this is seen is in the dual besting friendship with Scotty Pippen and the infamous 1986 game against Celtics. He had to show he was the best because no one else could be. He wouldn’t just win, he would destroy. This hunger for success is summarized succinctly by Jordan himself in an interview with Connie Chung:
Connie Chung: Do you think you have a gambling problem?
MJ: No, because I can stop gambling… I have a competition problem. (NBC Action News, 2020).
Clearly the game moved from a friendly one to a more mature problem, but the concerns stay the same. He could not leave a table (or court) with a losing hand. He could not deal with rumors that another player would take over. Both created an uneasy feeling. The rest of the documentary series has this theme threaded into it, and I think it serves as an important lesson for many athletic families involved in sports. That question is: what is my place in my children’s athletic lives?
What Can Parents Do?
Should parents be serving a referee role? Should they be coaching their own children? What about giving in to the desire to be a cheerleader? The answer, after watching “The Last Dance” is that parents just need to be parents.
Some children are just predisposed to be competitive. However, parents need to do their part to not throw kindling on the fire to incite emotions. In the opposite respect, if a child is naturally predisposed, parents should also take the time to help develop their child’s self-control and how to focus that energy appropriately.
If we want to maximize our child’s appreciation for athletics and increase their social capacity, control is best left to the coaching professionals. They are the ones that have spent time being trained on sports psychology and are removed enough from the familial unit to see each player’s strengths objectively so that they can work effectively together. This is partially why the Bulls were so incredible: because Phil Jackson knew how to make each one shine cohesively.
The most important lesson for parents to take away is that sports and athletics should always be fun. The second that it feels like work or a chore is when burnout starts to take place, and it may turn a place to get healthy into a place a child resents. When not engaging in organized sports, let playtime or athletic engagement be a time for imagination and open play. Do not push the idea that practice has to be a constant and regimented force in their lives because greatness is the goal.
Remember: being the best is the benefit, but increased health is the outcome. Also, keep an environment of variety. Bring out different balls or sports gear to play a sport funnily, or make up new games. This can help your child practice new skills while having fun.
If you are on the lookout for ways to keep your kids having fun this summer, and keeping them busy and healthy, Sport Court North is a great resource. We have fun packs (with balls and other accessories) and an array of different courts for your property: tennis, bocce, basketball…you name it! Our quality products and services will help ensure that this won’t be the last dance for your sporting activity, but a lifelong passion to be fostered.