How Grounding my Daughter Helped her Learn to Ride a Bike

By Rob Currin | Posted 8/14/2019

Sports and life often intersect, and the results can be incredibly powerful.  

Playing the role of coach and parent can create an interesting flow of thoughts and reflections regarding the relationships that exist within the two roles. Though I coach athletes that are 14-18 years old, having an 11-year-old son, a 9-year-old daughter, and a 6-year-old daughter at home has informed my perspective when it comes to coaching my players. 

An area of thought that had been categorized as football-specific in my mind made quite an impact recently when applied to another area in my life. Contact, in my mind, is usually reserved for blocking and tackling. I often think of contact with other players but contact with the ground is a large part of football as well. And only recently have I begun thinking about the benefits of preparing players for contact, especially at younger levels. 

My children are very different individuals. My son plays soccer, flag football, basketball and baseball. One thing that we’ve discussed is that if you are willing to do the things that others aren’t, there will likely be a place for you on any team. This includes running routes with great effort to open other areas of the field for teammates, boxing out, rebounding, diving for loose balls, getting a body in front of a ground ball, etc. My son has developed a great relationship with the hardwood as a result of this mentality. 

My youngest child, probably typical of many youngest children, is very comfortable with contact as a result of having older siblings and cousins. In her soccer games, she naturally uses her body to cut attacking players off from the ball and she’s often reminded that her elbows could stay down a bit. 

My middle child is a dancer. She loves ballet. She celebrates elegance and art and she is not comfortable with contact. If a ball is thrown in her vicinity, she is likely to take cover as fast as she can. She also is the last member of our family to successfully learn how to ride a bicycle. She only recently mastered this skill and I give partial credit for this to an approach that included thoughts on preparing for contact. 

On the day that she began riding her bike with confidence, we started out in the backyard as usual. There were tears, there was a declaration of all that could go wrong and a resolution made to try again another day. This exact scene had played out several times before. 

I had recently engaged in discussion with my network of coaches about preparation for contact and the role that tumbling can play in getting young football players comfortable with the ground. I decided to put this idea to the test. 

We put the kickstand down and walked to another area of the lawn. We both started on our knees and simply began falling in a controlled manner, landing on the hip and then the shoulder. We did not use our arms or elbows to brace the fall. After several controlled falls like this, we added two rolls. The next step was to stand up and fall to a knee, then to a hip, and then to a shoulder, keeping our arms tucked. Soon enough, we were falling slowly and rolling around on the grass. An interesting sight for the neighbors, to be sure. 

What happened next was remarkable. She got on the bike and rode it all around the yard. Then she was on the sidewalk in front of our house. Twenty minutes after our backyard tumbling circuit, we were riding around the block. 

This actually happened. 

Did falling to the ground instantly teach my daughter all the skills necessary to ride her bike? No. She accumulated those skills in her own time. I do believe wholeheartedly, though, that preparing for contact with the ground gave her the confidence that she needed for the light to switch on. 

Great things can happen when the sports we coach and the lives we lead come into contact with one another in thoughtful and meaningful ways. Preparing for contact can go a long way in creating confidence in our young players.

As coaches, let’s spend more time giving them the tools to overcome their fears instead of instilling in them the idea that their fears are not valid. I’m glad that I didn’t become frustrated with my daughter that day. Instead, we made a thoughtful coaching decision and the result was what I’m chalking up as the first win of the season. 

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