Book Review: Be All In by Christie Pearce Rampone and Dr. Kristine Keane

Be All In: Raising Kids for Success in Sports and Life, by Christie Pearce Rampone and Dr. Kristine Keane is one of the best sports books I've read in a long time. Unlike most sports books, which are geared mainly towards athletes or coaches, this book is geared mainly towards parents. This is what makes this book special. It is parents, not coaches or even kids themselves, that have the greatest impact on a child's development. Good parenting helps kids develop into healthy, mature, and mentally tough athletes/people. On the other hand, bad parenting stunts the growth of children and can lead to all kinds of emotional and behavior problems later in life. By the time a kid is 18 years old, they will have an entire set of attitudes, skills, and experiences that will either help them succeed or fail as an athlete and as a person. While coaches can have a great influence on children, it is mainly parents who provide their children with the attitudes, skills, and experiences needed to succeed in sports and in life. By applying the lessons in this book, parents can help their children reach their full potential, as athletes and as people. 

However, the lessons in this book aren't just for parents of young kids. The inspirational messages and practical tips offered in this book can be applied by any coach or athlete. When parents, athletes, and coaches all work together for the development of kids and teams, great things happen. And that's what this book is all about. It helps parents, athletes, and coaches each do their part in developing athletes and people. A book like this is extremely valuable, especially in today's sports culture.

With that being said, here is what I've learned from this book:

One of the main themes of this book is understanding the big picture. Too often, parents get tunnel vision and become caught up in the ultra-competitive youth sports culture. Instead of doing what's best for their kids' long-term physical and mental health, they focus too much on short-term winning. This can lead to behaviors such as:

  • Prioritizing sports over everything else and losing balance in life.
  • Having kids specialize in a single sport at too young of an age.
  • Encouraging kids to care more about their individual stats than team success.
  • Encouraging kids to play through injuries.
  • Yelling at refs, and coaching on the sidelines during games.
  • Putting too much pressure on kids and increasing their fear of failure.

Many of these parenting mistakes stem from the fear of missing out. To overcome FOMO and the impatience that it causes, you need to take a step back and focus more on the long term. By being more patient and trusting the process, you can set your kids up for long-term success, both on and off the field.

Another root cause of bad sports parenting is trying to live your life through your kids. This happens when parents draw too much personal pride from their kid's athletic success. They want their kids to succeed in sports mainly because it makes them feel good about themselves. The actual growth and happiness of their kids comes second. In order to avoid this parenting mistake, you need to remember that youth sports are for your kids, not you. The long-term physical, emotional, and character development of your children is more important than short-term athletic glory. When parents truly understand this, they can do a better job stepping outside the modern sports culture and facilitate the true growth of their kids.

However, as the authors of this book say, it is not enough to resist the modern sports culture yourself. It takes an entire team of parents, coaches, and athletes to truly turn a culture around and maximize the development of children. In other words, everyone has to "be all in!"

But how do you do this? Changing a sports community's culture is easier said than done. Nevertheless, this book gives great advice on how to get this done. They highly encourage teams (as well as families) to create written mission statements. It's one thing to talk about changing the culture. It's another thing to actually have a meeting with all parents and coaches to discuss shared values and goals, write an official mission statement, and then to keep each other accountable throughout the season. This takes bold leadership and constant effort, but it's the only way to make real change in a culture.

Another theme of this book is the importance of modeling. As parents, you are the biggest role models in your kids' lives. If you don't model the values and virtues that you want from your children, they most likely won't listen to you. You can't always just tell your kids how to behave. You have to model virtues and lead by example. Throughout this book, the authors write about many virtues, character traits, and behaviors and how you can best model them to your kids. These virtues, traits, and behaviors include:

  1. Accountability. To teach your kids accountability, you have to be accountable yourself. You also have to empower your kids to take ownership of their lives and teach them how their actions affect their outcomes (and other people's outcomes).
  2. Communication. To teach your kids communication skills, you need to be a good communicator yourself. Show your kids what good eye-contact, listening, and problem solving skills look like. Don't do all their communicating for them. Allow them to communicate with their coaches and teammates themselves (when appropriate).
  3. Mental toughness. To teach mental toughness, you have to be mentally tough yourself. Don't make excuses. Take ownership and push through adversity. Most importantly, teach your kids that adversity is unavoidable. Don’t hide your kids from adversity. Allow them to face adversity, and encourage them to persevere. This is the only way to truly build mental toughness.
  4. Authenticity. To teach authenticity, you need to be true to yourself and also allow your kids to be true to themselves. You can guide your kids to a certain extent, but ultimately, you have to let them make their own athletic decisions and play for their own reasons, especially once they reach the age of sixteen. 
  5. Confidence. Building up your kid's confidence isn't just about showering them with compliments. True confidence must be earned. You need to encourage your children to work hard, overcome obstacles, and achieve success. However, there are many more little things you can do to help your kids build confidence. You can help them deal better with social comparisons by teaching them to learn from their teammates rather than envy them. And you can help them reflect on their past preparation and success. These little mental skills can add up to greatly improve confidence.

This book also gives many practical tips on how to deal with performance anxiety. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Create a pre-game routine consisting of things such as taking deep breaths, listening to music, practicing visualization, making a “power pose” (positive body language), and using positive self-talk.
  2. Help your kids relieve anxiety by reminding them that you'll always love them no matter if they win or lose.
  3. Uncover your core beliefs that are at the root of your fear of failure, then replace them with more rational and positive thoughts.
  4. Focus more on improvement and fun than winning.
  5. Practice mindfulness to improve your concentration and emotional control in games.
  6. Practice performing under pressure, and practice at game speed.
  7. Embrace pressure and build the courage to face your fears in games.

There are so many more inspiring messages and helpful tips packed into this book. If you want to help your children reach their full potential, then I highly recommend you read this book and apply its lessons!