Football is just a sport. However, it is a platform for parents and coaches to teach some of life’s most valuable lessons and create some of its most powerful experiences.
1. Not Everybody Gets A Trophy
Somewhere along the line we became a society that preached instant gratification. Like a giant carnival, our slogan became “everybody wins all the time.” We know it’s not true. It’s also a terrible example to set. Losing is every bit as important in human growth as winning. Rewarding your child for doing nothing will teach him just that. Nothing.
2. Everyone Has Different Talents
Maybe your daughter wants to be the next Carrie Underwood. Then you hear her sing. Your son wants to be Evan Longoria. He can’t hit the ball off a tee. There are just some things we aren’t cut out for. It’s best to learn that at an early age. The good news is that they are a champion at something. Guide them towards where their gifts lie.
3. Have Class
What is one of the most flattering descriptions a person can hear? “He sure has a lot of class.” “She sure was a great sport about it.” Are you teaching your children how to fail with dignity? How a person accepts failure is an easy indicator of the character within. It also almost guarantees future success. Respect is gained outwardly and inwardly. Coach Dungy is prime example of “class.”
4. Learning From Mistakes
“I think and think for months. For years. Ninety-nine times the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.” Who said that? Albert Einstein. Mistakes humble. They can hurt. Yet without them, we are stagnant. Every mistake we make is an educational experience. Every success is built upon a foundation of errors and corrections.
Now and then, the tables are turned, and an everyday kid doing a good deed gets some attention.
Let’s all remember that there are plenty of kids out there growing up and making a difference now.
Sportsmanship is alive
It’s such an easy gesture yet it’s rarely seen…the simple act of sportsmanship.
Early in the game played on the lush fields of Westminster Christian Academy in Creve Coeur, Webster Groves lacrosse player Caroline Burk went down with a leg injury. As coach Josh Palacios ran to his player, she was already being attended to by Westminster Christians’s Danielle Pfyl. The two helped Caroline to the sidelines.
These days the act is rarely seen away from the high school playing fields.
Over the course of covering six St. Louis Cardinals games so far this season, this photographer has seen more jawing between pitchers and hitters, both demanding respect. In one instance the banter almost resulted in a bench clearing confrontation.
They could learn just a little bit from Danielle.
Related Post: athletics-is-a-means-to-an-end
Every parent of an athletic child wonders if their kid has a shot at the big time. Well, let’s look at some hard facts related to this question. Just 2 percent of varsity high school athletes will play their sport in college, and only 1 percent will get a scholarship to do so. Let’s take basketball as an example. Roughly 1 basketball player from all the athletes from 8 high school teams will get a scholarship. How many high school basketball players make it to the professional level? 0.03% Yes, that is 3 in 10,000 who make an income playing basketball. Far less will make the big money in the NBA. And very few of them play for very long. The truth of the matter is brutal. 9,997 varsity high school players don’t ever make any money playing basketball; 3 do. Of those three, two will earn about $40,000 a year in a foreign league until younger players replace them in about five years. 1 in 10,000 will gain some fame and fortune playing ball.
So kids may dream of playing pro ball, but it’s a fantasy for all but a very, very, very few who are extraordinarily talented, extremely hardworking, and exceedingly fortunate to avoid injuries and be seen by the right people at the right time.
So, is it foolish to pursue excellence in sports in high school? Absolutely not! But it’s essential that student athletes understand that sports is a great teacher, but it’s a lousy employer (because it isn’t hiring). Athletics is a means, not an end. It can teach young people valuable lessons and instill noble character traits that are extremely useful in their careers and in their relationships.
But too many kids and parents are burdened with the belief that they can do it. They will be the next LeBron James, Roger Federer, or Albert Pujols. I say “burdened” because the overwhelming evidence says that they will not achieve anywhere near that level of success. And the result is a young life that is very often ultra-competitive, over-scheduled, and hyper-stressed. Burnout is common. Injuries can be severe (torn ACL’s and rotator cuffs among preteens are not unusual now). Resentment often looms ahead.
1. “Emphasize the development of virtue and character over scoreboard outcome. The development of a good character — the ability to control passion, emotion, and behavior — will always stand children in good stead on and off the playing field… Children, at any talent level, can only be truly successful in life if they possess good character. Becoming an emotionally balanced person of courage, fairness, self-discipline, and strong ability to work as a member of a team, sets up a person for success in any endeavor, in any place” (Durant).
I once heard a speaker named Dan Miller at an educator’s conference tell the audience about how he learned to fly an airplane. First, you should know that he is disabled from polio as a teenager to the extent that he can only use one arm, and he walks with a serious limp. His sickness had canceled his first flying lesson; becoming a pilot was his childhood dream.
In his autobiography, he admits that “Planes require two good hands and two good legs to work the controls, yokes, radio, and rudder pedals. ‘Airplanes crash,’ they would say. ‘You’ll kill yourself.’ ‘You only have one good arm.’ ‘Your legs are too weak.’ I heard a lot of dream-breaker statements… My first lesson was awful! I had to reach across my body for the flaps, throttle, and trim. Every time I’d reach for them, the plane would dip, tip, and do everything but fly straight and level. I went all over the sky. I couldn’t fly. My lesson was a total failure. But I could give up on my dream yet… The next try, though still not good, was better. I tell people, ‘If it worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly at first.’
Dan eventually got his pilot’s license and has enjoyed many years of flying adventures. He also taught himself to play golf with only one arm, and he’s good. He scores in the mid-80’s regularly and has a hole-in-one to his credit. Impressive.
Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first. That is wisdom for all ages. We need to embrace failure as a friend who is honest enough to tell us that we still need to work harder, listen to others, think more clearly, and learn more information. Failure has something to teach us every time. That’s what makes people successful — learning from mistakes and persevering slowly toward the goal.
Whether it’s a left-handed layup, a math problem, or a new technological skill, kids need to be encouraged to do things poorly at first, then a little better each time, until they make real progress. Then encourage them some more. “See! I knew you could do it! You have improved so much! I’m proud of you. Really proud.”
John Wooden, the most-successful and most-revered basketball coach of all time, is a role model for so many men — and rightfully so. To this day, as he approaches 100 years old, his character is so strong that the people around him want to be better because of his example. Watch this, and you’ll get a glimpse of why he inspires so many people, near and far, with his loyalty and his love.
Let’s not forget that this kind of life is possible — and powerful.
We have a lot to learn from Coach Wooden. Click here for more.
My sister has two kids (10 and 13), both of whom are very athletic, and their family truly enjoys participating in and watching youth sports. We like to swap stories about our kids, and inevitably many of them are about something crazy that has happened in sports. Here is the latest…
“Last night at Hailey’s basketball game, we were playing a team we’ve beaten 3 times before, and this time they were out for blood. Never mind the obnoxious lady coach teaching her kids to throw elbows and “get ’em!” but there was something even better. I loved the Dad and his teenage son, sitting right under the basket, who decided that in the second half they would wave their arms and yell and laugh while our girl was shooting a free throw. They did this twice, and then a dad from the same team went over to tell them to stop. They didn’t! It was hysterical and SAD. After the game one of our very shy moms confronted him. She told him “Good game, your girls deserved to win” and then went on to tell him how inappropriate his behavior was. You could see he was clearly shocked at this confrontation, but sadly he told her “your team has beaten our team 3 times, and we wanted to win.” These girls are third and fourth graders!”
Here are my thoughts on this scene:
A. It doesn’t shock me, although it is fairly rare to see someone THAT immature and moronic in the stands of youth sports.
B. I am so proud of the two parents who confronted him about his terrible behavior. We need more of them.
C. The referees, or the tournament director, should have stopped the game to confront him and thrown him out of the gym if he refused to stop.
D. I feel sorry for the man’s kids.
E. Like my mom said about my own baseball coach who used to lose his mind on occasions, “Kids can learn from bad examples as well as good ones, if parents talk about these things with their kids.”
In the grand scheme of things, we need to remember that youth sports is a series of kids games with referees and coaches to keep things moving along well. It’s a game. And sometimes it takes a jerk in the stands to remind us of that.
Athletic talent is instant karma for the social status of any young man. In modern American mythology, the quarterback is the hero.
It’s easy for the athletically-gifted boy to be well-respected and popular because he is always among the biggest, fastest, strongest, and most coordinated boys in his grade. Anytime there is a physical contest, which is pretty much every hour of every day in a boy’s life, he succeeds. He gets picked first – maybe second – every time. And that is just the beginning of the fun. Win or lose, his God-given talent is on stage for all of his peers to see, sometimes garnering instant applause. Later, he will bask in the glory of hearing others review some great move or play he made. His friends will enter his bedroom to see a wall full of trophies, ribbons, and medals. In high school, he will see his name and picture in the local newspaper. It’s “The Life” for a boy.
For the most elite athlete, he doesn’t feel the NEED to be a good student, have a witty personality, or have great social skills. In some cases, he doesn’t even need to practice as hard as the others. He just needs to put on his shoes and go play ball and success happens because he has IT – the gift of athleticism. So, he gets self-esteem automatically, friends easily, and it can spoil him to the point where he is no longer developing in other important areas. His peers allow him to coast – and not grow up well.
And so it is with the beautiful girl. Everybody knows who she is. From the earliest age, people stare at her, trying to figure out what makes her so pretty. What’s her secret? All of her pictures turn out well because she is naturally photogenic. Her facial features are perfectly symmetrical with high cheekbones and bright eyes. Her skin is clear and bright. Her hair easily folds into the latest hairstyle, and her figure just gets better each year. She is Venus, goddess of love and beauty, who needs no decoration or modification. In modern mythology, the beautiful cheerleader is the goddess who captivates the hero.
She simply smiles politely, and everybody adores her. She doesn’t have to speak intelligently, get good grades, or have a snappy sense of humor. Her name is written on binders at school, and all eyes are on her in the halls. Continue reading “Beyond Beauty and Athletics”
This week on the car radio, I overheard the most obnoxious sports radio talk show host furiously ranting and raving about how corrupt professional and big college sports have become. It went something like this: “Don’t let your kids idolize anyone in sports today! It’s an ugly business, full of greediness, lying, cheating, and everything that is wrong with this world. There are no role models in sports anymore!” To me, it was a shocking rant because his livelihood is made from talking about sports, yet there he was betraying his industry with the most extreme language. He didn’t “pull a punch” or let anyone off the hook. He explained with the utmost disgust that all professional and big college athletes, coaches, and executives are tainted by the money, the power, and the fame.
It troubled me as I thought of the players from my childhood who were my role models: Cal Ripken Jr., Lou Brock, John Stockton, Roger Staubach, and Walter Payton. I thought about some of the role models that I have in sports now: Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Albert Pujols, and others. Are they in some way corrupt too? Are they just putting on a show for the public? Or are they just the extreme minority — one of just a very few people in the sports industry who have stayed grounded in spite of all the corruption around them? Or is this radio host just off his rocker once again?