50 things (we hope) our children learned this summer

50 things (we hope) our children learned this summer

Cindy and I are not the “Parents of the Year.” 

We are just as confused, distracted, overwhelmed, stressed as other parents. 

Most days we parent on a wing and a prayer and a beer. Most days we are frauds.

Some days our children don’t shower. Some days they have enough screen time to make a pediatrician tremble. Some days they have Cap n’ Crunch for dinner. And some days they go to bed too late because Cindy and I just don’t feel like starting the “going to bed” process. 

But this past summer, for 20 minutes every day for 50 days, we were good parents.  

On July 8, 2019, Cindy and I issued our three children a challenge: practice soccer for 20 minutes a day for 50 straight days. And by practice we meant a 20 minute supervised session with either Cindy or I.

At first, like any new challenge, my children roared with excitement. There was no nagging, no threatening, no “eat your vegetables or else” to get them outside practicing. They’d slip on their cleats and rush into the backyard ready to play. But as summer goes—the mornings grew hotter, more humid, the challenge lost its magic and, like going back to school in September, became something they had to do.

Yet as days passed, their challenge became my challenge. I wanted them to know what it felt like to accomplish a set goal. And if I’m being honest– so did I. 

My children saw this challenge as an opportunity to improve their soccer skills. But for Cindy and I, this challenge was more than just soccer. It was a nook of time,  which with busy schedules is hard to find, where we could introduce and teach our children vital skills–accountability, commitment, humility and perseverance. 

Skills that transfer off the playing field and long into life.

I won’t be shy here–and I’ll speak for Cindy as well– we’re proud of our children. They completed the challenge. They improved as soccer players and as little people who will face greater challenges in their life.   

Earlier in the summer I participated in a 21-day Freedom Challenge hosted by author Ryan Holiday. The overall message was that self-improvement is a daily practice.  And in an age of quick fixes and hacks and instant gratification, we sometimes don’t want to acknowledge that daily practice is the only way to improve.

Soccer challenge at the beach and sporting “write on fight on” shirts.
After the 50th soccer challenge, we went to the diner and ate like kings.

Throughout my children’s soccer challenge I took notes, sound bites, of each session. At the conclusion of the challenge I compiled “50 reasons why Mom and Dad made you complete the 50 day soccer challenge” printed it, and hung it by our kitchen table as a reminder of what the challenge taught us and how to face other challenges. 

Cindy and I are not the “Parents of the Year”. We can be self-consumed, self- involved, and self-prioritizing. But this summer–for just 20 minutes a day–we were present with our children. We prioritized their improvement. 

Below you will find our list of 50 reasons for the soccer challenge. Feel free to share, steal, or use it as inspiration to start your own challenge.

Be well,


50 reasons why Mom and Dad made you complete the 50 day soccer challenge:

  1. A little practice can lead to big things.
  2. Accountability matters.
  3. All improvement takes is effort.
  4. Physical exercise is important. 
  5. Sweat dries. 
  6. Commitment is an underappreciated quality.
  7. Cleaning up is just as important as setting up.
  8. We all must do things we don’t want to do. 
  9. Practice is where you grow.
  10. Real confidence comes from real work.
  11. Don’t be afraid to fail. 
  12. Train in the mornings before your mind tries to convince you not to. 
  13. Training in the summer heat is possible.
  14. Training can happen away from home. 
  15. We all need encouragement from time to time. 
  16. Crying doesn’t make time go faster.
  17. Listening to instructions is appreciated by your parents and your future employers.
  18. Appreciate the time you have to play.
  19. Practice what makes you uncomfortable. 
  20. Not every training session will be great. 
  21. Learn how to compliment a teammate. 
  22. You will lose.
  23. You will never quit. 
  24. Run–even when your not instructed to. 
  25. Bugs are only a problem until you let them become a problem. 
  26. Effort is contagious. 
  27. Be coachable. 
  28. Take pride in your improvement. 
  29. When you’re done, put your cleats back where they belong. 
  30. When it comes to practice: quality over quantity. 
  31. You will not always be the best.
  32. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. 
  33. Focus on your own improvement. 
  34. Always put your teammate in a position to succeed. 
  35. Have fun but take your fun seriously. 
  36. Embrace new challenges.
  37. Impose your will. 
  38. Thinking about training is worse than actually training.  
  39. A positive attitude is a choice. So is a bad one. Choose wisely. 
  40. Set goals. Reach goals. Repeat. 
  41. Be humble.
  42. Embrace challenges. Don’t fear them. 
  43. We are all a work in-progress. 
  44. Improvement happens one day at a time.
  45. Don’t get angry because someone is better than you. 
  46. You can only control how hard you work. 
  47. Like physical strength, mental strength builds from exercise. 
  48. Take joy in other people’s successes.
  49. Feeling sorry for yourself will get you nowhere fast.
  50. Don’t expect perfection. 

Can writing raise the dead? I believe so. My adopted aunt died last week after a 15 month war with cancer. But through the transformation power of storytelling she will never die. Last week I wrote this for her and raised her from the dead. It was one of the hardest yet most rewarding pieces I ever wrote. 

Life favors the brave. Subscribe and receive my weekly stories, encouragement, and positive messages to motivate you to improve your life, take positive risks, and help to rekindle your happiness and joy. 


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