Sports Club: My Unexpected Lesson in Fostering Leadership

My unexpected lesson in fostering leadership started as inconspicuously as any other busy weekday night, corralling the three kids for supper, a soccer game, baths, and bedtime. In the process of trying to hasten bedtime, I scooped up some uniform shorts from the floor and absentmindedly searched the pockets. I found some cryptic note containing our address and tossed it on the counter. I was certain it was another innocuous doodling from morning care. I was wrong.

As we picked up my oldest from carpool the next day, my husband and I started the cursory “How was your day?” only to be enthusiastically interrupted. Carson couldn’t wait to inform us that he had started a club, and he sent out invitations, and the first meeting was the next day (Saturday), and everyone was coming over to our house at one o’clock.

Our immediate reaction after another long week was your expected “Whoa, whoa, whoa … No one’s coming over! You can’t just invite people without talking to us first.”

I made some snarky post about it on Facebook only to discover that one of my friends’ sons had received an invitation. She posted a picture of it in the comments, and sure enough: there was a perfect replica of the note I had tossed aside the night before. Evidently several of these password-protected invitations had gone out over the course of the day. We all got a nice laugh at how typical this was of Carson, our organizer, planner, and leader.

Mainly for kicks, we asked Carson what the “Sports Club” was even about or what the club meeting would consist of. He explained that it was a club for people who like sports and want to play different sports for fun. He had even drafted up an agenda. This kid …

After bedtime, my husband more seriously suggested the crazy idea that we actually let him do it. He mentioned that if he’s such a leader, we should give him healthy opportunities to lead (as compared to the time he sorted his friends into Hogwarts houses at recess).

The next morning we carefully pitched him the idea. Here were the requirements of our compromise: we weren’t going to buy anything, decide on activities, write invitations, draft an agenda, or in any other way aid the idea that this type of planning behind our backs was acceptable. I admit it was a difficult balance of “fostering independence” and “enabling.” We had a thorough discussion about including us – you know, his PARENTS – in planning, demonstrating that we were willing to be open-minded in an effort to hopefully discourage any secrecy in the future. But we weren’t. going. to DO. anything. We told him he could use his house as a place to host, but he would have to do literally everything else.

He eagerly agreed, and then the work began. I agreed to post an official invitation on Facebook, sharing it with the moms of the invitees, whom Carson chose. He told me what to type on the invitation and decided on the design, times, and logistics. He drafted an agenda, including an opening prayer and the pledge (be still, my heart). I also agreed to drive him to the store so he could buy decorations and snacks with his allowance money. He casually informed me that “All we need is Cheez-Its anyway,” and he excitedly noticed a Buy-One, Get-One Free deal on Gatorade, which he took advantage of. Man after my own heart.

And that Sunday afternoon, the inaugural meeting of the Sports Club was underway. The group played games, of course, while my husband played referee, and I played pregnant host, putting snacks outside and taking pictures. While the meeting may have lacked parliamentary procedure — no minutes were recorded or bylaws voted upon – Carson and his friends insisted it was a great success.

As they left the “meeting,” sweaty and tired, all of the friends asked about when the next meeting would be held. Carson got started right away in planning the next one, this time to be held at the nearby park!

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