At the end of our last Wednesday practice of 2016, Jr Black (the jr three team I coach) was super eager to give me the Christmas gift that they had gotten for me. They handed me the bag with smiles on all of their faces impatiently waiting to see my reaction. To my surprise, it was a picture frame with the picture above inside of it. All of their little arms reaching toward the middle, with the various character words we’ve been trying to teach them this season. As I’m looking at the picture, the kids are beaming, all telling me which arm is theirs, and what word they have written on their arm. At that moment I thought to myself, this is what it’s about. I love being a part of helping our younger generation maximize their potential inside and especially outside of the gym. Over the next several months I’ll be writing about the five ways to have a healthier, and whole child. Since we’re in January and this is the month where we do our personal reflections and make statements like New Year New Me, I figured character development would be a great place to start.
Our culture today
The divorce rate hovers around 50% in America, while about 40% of families today are eating three or fewer meals together per week and the stay at home mom virtually doesn’t exist. So, while family time is dramatically down, social media and entertainment are significantly up. Tweens and teens are spending six to nine hours a day either on their phones, computers or in front of the TV. When I look at those numbers I realize how important it is for me to be not entirely focused on the wins, losses, x’s and o’s, but on the bigger picture for our athletes as people. We as coaches are one of the most influential and authoritative figures in the lives of our athletes. Today our positive role models aren’t as available as they once were and they are often drowned out by negative influences. So to narrow down this month’s talk on character development, I’m going to speak more specifically on winning and losing, and why it’s so important for our young people to develop character in regards to both of these areas.
No Participation Awards
Think about this question, how competitive is life nowadays? We compete for college acceptance letters, we compete for jobs, job promotions and against rival businesses more than ever before, and when is the last time you saw a participation award at your job? Our young people need to understand the true meaning of achievement, and what it takes to get there. Youth sports is a great place for our young people to learn how to set goals and how to work hard to reach them. It’s where structure, discipline, and integrity are reinforced outside of the home. Sports teach our young people how to achieve, and not just for the sake of achieving but so they can appreciate the drive & passion that achievement takes. I love teaching our athletes that success is a choice, something that won’t just happen on accident; that they can apply the principles they learn in cheer to any area of their life that they want to find success in.
Participating in sports practically my whole life, I understand that one of the ways to have a healthy whole child is to put them in sports. Sports taught me how to strive for success on and off of the field, court, and mat, and that true success is built on the foundation of character.
As much as sports teach us the characteristics needed to achieve, youth sports team can’t have a complete focus on winning. I’m not saying that striving for winning isn’t important because I believe very much that it is. However, if your whole foundation is built on winning, losing will be disastrous and detrimental. It’s like the man who built his house on the sand when the rain and floods came it fell, and great was the fall.
Why Failing is Good
Even though achieving is really gratifying. I know a major reason why I’m not shaken to the core when adversity comes my way is because cheer specifically has taught me that life isn’t always fair (being a subjective sport that is left up to judges, I’ve lost a few competitions in my life that I think the judges just got wrong). We all know that life isn’t always easy. Our youth need to be exposed to failure, they need to be exposed to tough situations and someone holding them accountable to their potential. They need to learn how to take criticism and how to be a coachable person.
“Uncoachable kids become unemployable adults, let your kids get used to someone being tough on them.” –Patrick Murphy, softball coach at the University of Alabama.
If our young people are anything like you and me at some point they are going to miss the mark. They aren’t going to get into that school they wanted, get the job they applied for, or the rival business is going to corner the market, and a participation award won’t be coming their way. At one point in my life winning was my everything, when I won, life was great, but losing was truly devastating. So our young people need understand that at times they are going to fall short and that’s ok. “Life isn’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward,” –Rocky Balboa. So as old and cliché as that is, that is what character is all about and I truly believe that getting our young people involved in sports is one of the best ways to invest in their character development.
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