March Madness approaches. In all its celestial glory, one of the greatest American sports events beckons even the most disinterested fans to pay attention.
March Madness creates all sorts of opportunities for dads to creatively engage their kids, as we’ve documented. But the event also creates an opportunity for dads to reflect critically on if and how we watch sports with our kids. There should obviously be limits on how we do so, but I’m not here to tell you shouldn’t ever do it. I love sports (and the best sport, of course).
So, what can take watching-sports-with-our-kids to the next level? A few ideas:
- Practice what you perceive: When we watch football, we play football. With a Nerf football in our basement, my boys (7 and 3) run routes, catch and throw passes, and attempt to evade tackles as we watch the Eagles dominate the competition.
- Teach the game: Watching sports creates the opportunities to teach the rules and introduce our kid(s) to the sports we most love. This is how you read a putt. Here is why there are four downs in football. This is why the first-pitch strike matters. Here is why March Madness is a national treasure.
- Mute the commercials: While watching an average NFL game, we watch 11 minutes of gameplay and over 100 minutes of commercials. This is the nature of sports, but it presents opportunities for dads to engage our kids. These are moments to seize for roughhousing or other such activities.
- Reinforce the fanbase: Passing on character traits and virtues to our children matters. Passing on our cheering preferences matters far more so. Watching sports with our kids affords us the opportunity to instruct our kids in the way they should go, helping them understand why we cheer for the teams we believe in.
Postscript: A few years ago, we interviewed Ben Hamilton, offensive lineman in the NFL and fellow father, on his view of the subject.