Parenting Blog

What an Onside Kick Teaches Our Kids

Last night, Sean Payton, the most imaginative coach in the NFL, also proved to be the gutsiest.

Down 10-6 at halftime, preparing to kick off to the offensively dangerous Peyton Manning, the Saints head coach dialed up an onside kick – a play with a success rate of roughly 25%.  If the play falls into the 75% failure category, the Colts have a very short field and likely take an 11 point lead.  Maybe the game gets away from New Orleans at that point.

But it didn’t.  The onside kick worked.  Momentum, which had already begun to shift throughout the Saints-dominated 2nd quarter, shifted for good post-onside kick.  The Saints scored, took the lead and, a couple hours later, were crowned Super Bowl Champions.

Payton’s call was impressive and could stand as a teachable moment.  In 2010, the NFL isn’t exactly known as a bastion of creativity when it comes to playcalling.  It’s a copycat league, and has been for some time.  With so much money on the line and ‘job security’ being an oxymoron for coaches it’s rare that a team will go out on a limb during a regular season game, let alone in the middle of the biggest single-day sporting event in the world. But Payton did.  I’d be applauding him even it the Colts recovered the ball under that scrum on the 40-yard line.

So what does Sean Payton and the Saints onside kick teach us and our kids?  At it’s simplest, the play call shows us that life is short, the moments to soar fleeting and few & far between, and that we should attack life with a ferocious intensity and wild imagination.  With routines, jobs, commitments and all the other boring hassles of everyday life, this might seem outlandish, but it’s not.

Maybe your next grocery shopping trip doesn’t need an influx of creativity (although it probably can’t hurt to put something new in the cart this week – may I recommend asparagus, then tossed in olive oil and grilled), but how about getting in the car with your family and just driving someplace new next weekend.  No plans, no reservations, just go out and see something brand new together (while keeping the DS systems at home and in-car TV screens off).

Success in life is infinitely harder to measure than on a football field.  The score will tell you if a team or a player has won, but it’ll take years before you can judge your success/failure as a parent.  Still, I believe that taking little chances, as Sean Payton did to start the 2nd half of the Super Bowl, is something that can show your kids that life is unpredictable despite our best efforts to give it structure, and that the most rewarding experiences are often those which seem scary as hell at first.

Wanna try?  Start small: go to a locally owned restaurant instead of Applebee’s.  Go see a movie you’ve never heard of, or skip the movie and go see a play.  Bigger? Instead of Disney world, go to San Diego – see the zoo & wild animal park, drive east into the mountains, hang out near the airport and watch the planes fly over the city and over your heads as they land.  Dip your toes into the cold Pacific ocean, imagine that you can see Hawaii, watch the sunset from Coronado.

Life, even a long healthy one, goes by so damn fast.  We’ve only got so many breaths of fresh air to enjoy.  The next time there is a choice to make, try your own version of an onside kick and see what happens.  You and your kids may also end up pumping your fists in the air and smiling under a shower of confetti.

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