A player should never be afraid to tell their coach about an injury. Players are silenced because of the fear of being benched. Having an injury shouldn’t mean punishment. Show your player you care. Show them you are concerned more with their wellbeing than with winning the game. A little compassion at the beginning could save a lot of heartache in the end.
I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek’s Start with Why. It’s a book that was introduced to me in my professional life. And, recently I read this blog post about coaches balancing their Why and it really struck a cord a with me.
Start with Why is about your purpose, why do you exist, why do you do what you do? In business, the answer isn’t to make a profit, that’s a result. Sinek says “that people buy why you do something, not what you do.” In this video he uses Apple as an example. In short, we all have a reason for being and coaches have a reason for coaching, like in the blog I linked above.
Every coach has a Why, a reason they sacrifice so much, day in and day out. The example used in the blog is that a few families demanded that the coach do away with the equal playing time rule. This strikes a cord with me because all of the organizations my kids play for, have this rule, and we’ve encountered these same parents before. The coach (in the blog post) almost felt obligated to submit to those families out of fear of losing them to another club, in turn, compromising his Why. This coach wanted to try and “balance” his/her system to appease a few families. I absolutely love the response his friend gave him, “You do not balance anything. If you cater to those few who only want to win, it isn’t a balance. It is abandoning your principles. Instead, you get really clear on who you are and what you do….”
If your organization or coach doesn’t have a parent meeting before the start of the season, they should. A parent meeting is a great way for the organization or coach to lay out their Why, their mission. It’s not going to remedy every situation, but at least the Why is upfront for all to see. If they don’t agree with your Why, they should probably find a different organization. “Never compromise the many for the few.”
I can sit here all day and pull out great quotes from the blog post, but I won’t. I encourage you to read it in its entirety, especially if you are a coach.
Legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano was quoted as saying,” Never give up! Failure and rejection are only the first step to succeeding.”
Even with these important words of wisdom from the late, great, coach, failure can still cause so much pain for young athletes and their parents.
It’s inevitably going to happen. At some point in your child’s life they will experience failure. There will come a time when your child will fail at what they are trying to achieve. They will miss a game winning shot in a basketball game, will give up the game winning hit or give up a goal. By every definition of the word, they will fail at something at some point in their life. In the end, that’s OK.
The first step to overcoming failure is to erase that word from your vocabulary. Failure can be a very destructive word that is used to describe events when goals are not achieved. I believe that we should be teaching our athletes that there is no such thing as failure. Failure is just an opportunity to learn and get better. If you get rid of the idea of failure in your mind you are then able to get rid of the fear of it.
Getting hung up on the failure, the fear of failure or focusing on the wins and losses can distract the athlete from learning. Failure can be one of your child’s greatest teachers. We learn best by making mistakes or experiencing disappointments and then growing from them. Defeat and disappointments are an integral part of sports and life.
After experiencing a disappointment in sports or life, athletes can do one of two things. They can either feel bad about themselves and the outcome of the event or they can learn from it and come back stronger and better equipped for sports and life from it. Resilience is paramount to building confidence. Athletes must be able to learn from the past but focus on the present.
Trying to protect your child from experiencing failure, like discouraging them from trying out for a team or trying a new activity, or not letting them handle their own situations, takes away valuable life skills and learning opportunities. Children who are over-protected from failure often do not obtain the skills necessary to deal with it. This is the great thing about sports, so many of the skills needed in life can be learned through your child’s participation.
An important thing for parents to remember is that long-term success is always more important than short-term results. Failure gives your child important feedback and it is not something to be feared or fended off.
So even if your child misses a game winning shot in a basketball game, gives up the game winning hit or gives up a goal, your child will become a more equipped person and athlete by learning from what happened and knowing how to handle similar situations next time.
4 THINGS TO HELP YOUR CHILD LEARN FROM FAILURE:
1. Acknowledge and allow your child to express their feelings after the event.
2. After emotions subside help your child work through what occurred, focus on the positives and what can be learned from it.
3. During the days following remind them of their proven strengths and abilities.
4. Help them bounce back by reminding them that they always do.
“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. “ – Vince Lombardi
I was a player before I was a coach or a parent. But, it was a long time ago; today I’m a co-worker and those values I learned long ago, serve me today. Now as a parent, I must remember what that was like, so I can share those experiences with my kids. Last time we talked about what it means to be a coach, to guide your players, to teach them the sport. Well, as the player your most important task is to be a good learner. This means showing up ready to work. This means being present and ready to learn. It means trying your best 100% of the time.
Once you join a team, there is no more I or me. As a player your child’s responsibility is to themselves, their coach and their team. If they have leadership tendencies, encourage them to step up and be that person for their teammates. Be there to pick them up, be there to encourage them. Be a doer, but also a shower (that’s almost more important). Show them that you always hustle, show them that you always give 100%, show them that when you struggle you are able to move on from it. If your child is not comfortable being a leader, encourage them be a team player, because that’s important, and it’s important to know how you can best contribute to the team.
A team player is someone that shows up to do their job. At practice their job is to listen to instruction, be respectful to the coach and teammates and try their best. At a game their job is to do all of the above but most importantly support each and everyone on the team. Cheer on your teammates. Give high fives or fist bumps, a pat on the back or a “good job” or “you’ll get it next time”. As a player they need to learn the game and try their best, as a team player they need to be the biggest supporter of each of their teammates.
Let your children know they don’t need to be best friends with their teammates, in fact they don’t even need to be friends. When you walk on that playing surface you’re teammates, no matter what else is happening around you. And if you’re all friends and want to spend time together afterwards, that’s just icing on the cake. This is the time when they’ll create memories that last forever. Enjoy it, live in this moment, because it really does go so fast.
One thing you will take away from being a teammate, is learning how to work with all different kinds of people and it will serve you your entire life. Remind your child that their individual commitment to the team is what makes the team work, and later, the company and society work. And that means we’re learning life’s lessons through sports!
Introducing the first in this four-part series about ‘Knowing Your Role’. To us this means knowing what you bring to your team and realizing that each role on the team is important. Join us as we discuss what roles we have, and then as we dive into the various roles on a team (Coach, Player and Parent).
Part I: Knowing Your Role
As adults we have careers, and within that career we have specific assignments or expectations of us. One thing that prepared us for this was playing sports growing up. It’s important to know your role on a team. We know that not everyone can be the coach, or the captain or the number one pitcher. We each have a specific role and each role is important (please remember to tell this to your children constantly).
As parents, we need to educate our children on this. Our kids learn this lesson in school daily, some may realize it and others probably don’t. This is another reason why sports play such a pivotal role in the development of a child. This is how I think we can control the sense of “entitlement-age” we’re living in.
We explain to our children that your team is like working for a company. You have the boss, which is your coach. You have other supervisors, which are the assistant coaches. You have the worker-bees, which are the players. Within that set you all have specialties, or in a company they might be departments. Everyone has a job description, everyone has a position they play. We tell our kids they are only 1/9th (baseball/softball) or 1/5th (basketball) of their team; because you can only control YOUR ACTIONS. However, if someone needs help performing their duties, typically others pick up the slack, because we are ONE team.
The greater good of the company is defined by how well each person performs their role. The success of the team is defined the same way. But, success can only be achieved when the right people are put in the right roles to obtain the best outcome. You can’t put someone at first base whom can’t catch the ball, it’s setting them up to fail. If each of us understand our role and accept it and know that our role is important to the greater good, success should follow.
The difficult part is not knowing your role, it’s understanding it’s importance to the team. When kids are little they hate playing outfield because at a young age they don’t receive much action. It’s our job to make sure they realize that there’s more to that role than catching a fly ball. On every pitch, every player should be moving and they should know where they’ll ultimately end up should that pitch be hit. At the youth level outfielders backing up infielders is critical on each play. I’ve seen many bases and runs given up because there wasn’t someone backing up a throw.
Explaining early on to our children that not everyone can be a pitcher or a point guard, will help them understand the importance of each role on a TEAM. Not everyone is going to be able to, nor want to be the CEO of a company, or the Vice President of a department. As long as we’re teaching our kids to be team players and that their own success can contribute to the greater good of the team or organization.
Dear 8U Baseball Coach (opponent coach, not ours),
Do you feel like you’re teaching your boys the game of baseball? Do you think that running your kids around the bases when the ball was in the infield taught any of the kids on the field anything? How about tagging up on a pop-up to shortstop? Did it make you feel like the best coach out there to score an exorbitant amount of runs in three innings? Was it your best idea to tell your kid to leadoff when there is a no leadoff rule and then tell the umpire so we could end the inning? What are all these things teaching your players?
Your lack of baseball etiquette was evident that day. Your lack of ability to teach young players the proper technique was also evident. I’d love to be at a game in a few years to see if what you’ve taught your players still works. Did you think of the other children on the field? Clearly, you didn’t. Our boys handled it in stride, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.
I’m writing this to you because you angered me. And the next day my older son was in a game in virtually the same situation, except we were on the winning side. Our coach held our runners and didn’t make a fool of the other team. We were winning 11-0 when one of our players hit a two-run homerun (over the fence). Of course our players wanted to congratulate him at home plate, however our coach told them to stay in the dugout. The opposing coach told our coach he appreciated that.
So, you see, there is etiquette in all sports and we need to teach our children the proper way. We need to teach our children that their actions (good or bad) have an affect on others. Not only for the sake of sports but for humanity. Whether you are up by 15 or down by 1, as a coach you must always be able to recognize a situation and adjust accordingly; that’s coaching and that’s how life’s lessons are conveyed to players.
It’s a difficult balance of being a parent to an athlete and being a coach to an athlete. The struggle is real as they say. Have you ever been in a situation where your child plays for a coach that doesn’t know anything about the sport they are coaching? Logic says “this person is nice and the kids are having fun.” That’s the part that has seen mean coaches. The parent|coach part says “the child is learning nothing, they aren’t getting better.”
So, if you’re faced with this, what are the options? Well, the child can play for a different team, a different organization all together. This situation is scary, we don’t know what we’ll get some where else. You know the saying “the grass isn’t always greener” comes to mind. The parent could step in and try to help the coach with their knowledge (totally depends on personality how this would be taken). The parent could ask to coach the team themselves the next season. For many, this isn’t an option because of other children and other commitments. The final option is to continue what you’re doing. Continue playing at this level and try to coach and get lessons in from other resources when you can.
The goal for any organization is to develop players, but the goal for us parents is to develop OUR player. If you don’t want to make a change, then you need to take matters into your hands. We always tell our kids that they are only one part of the team (1/5th of the basketball team or 1/9th of the baseball team). The only actions you can control are yours. While the development of the team as a whole is very important, we need to look out for the development our own child.
So, if you’re ever faced with this situation, my suggestion would be to focus on the development of your child. Whether it’s making a change with the team or just focusing your efforts on player development, you need to do what’s best for them.
It took me all last week to try and write this blog. I didn’t know how to start or what angle to take. Then it hit me in the shower (like most of my posts do), questioning, why don’t people like to be questioned? Well, I know the answer to that, I guess the question is why can’t people now-a-days handle being questioned? Are we that insecure as a society that we can’t handle someone challenging us?
I’m questioned or challenged by my superiors at work daily. I know there was a time in my life (probably my twenties) where that made me uncomfortable. Now, in my late thirties in a career I feel confident in, I don’t mind. I stand my ground, push back if need be, or give in, if that’s best for the situation too. Know why this is? Because I’m mature enough to handle these situations. I know what I know, but I’m not always right and I can work well with others. Why am I telling you all this!? Stay with me, I’m getting there and of course sports and life lessons are involved!
We had a situation at a baseball game that got out of control. After numerous innings of the srtike zone apparently growing, our coach finally decided to say something. He “questioned” the strike zone. Immediately the umpire got defensive. He took the conversation to a different level. He didn’t like that our coach “questioned” the way he was doing his job. I’ve seen this before in sports, umpires or referees that don’t like being undermined. We’re not condoning confrontations with officials, but what we are advocating for is the ability to have a conversation with said official in an adult manner.
Officials are human beings and we all make mistakes and we all use our judgement to the best of our abilities. With that said, when a coach decides to “question” an official they should be mature enough to have an adult conversation about the issue at hand (this goes for both parties).
The situation we were part of was far from a mature conversation. The home plate umpire was not interested in having a civil conversation. He went straight to beligerent and kicked out our coach. After resuming the game he walked over to two of our coaches that were having a conversation in the dugout and proceeded to kick them out, based on what he thought they were discussing. The first base umpire had had enough and decided to intervene and the two umpires had “words” with each other. The home plate umpire called the game and the first base umpire disagreed and told him so. After a physical altercation between the umps, the first base umpire went to his car to get his gear to continue the game. Coaches from both sides agreed to end the game. When the first base umpire came back another altercation between the two happened again. With coaches seperating them and escorting them to the parking lot the situation ended. It was one of the strangest games I’ve ever witnessed!
So, to conclude, this entire situation could’ve been avoided if the umpire were able to have an adult conversation about the events happening during the course of the game. We as a society need to be able to have constructive, uncomfortable conversations. Once we all can do that, I’m betting some pretty amazing things can happen!
I have three kids that play sports, so inevitably I can’t always be at every game. Though, this kills me, its virtually impossible to be everywhere. So, after a game I wasn’t at, I usually ask the kids how it went.
Our first instinct is to ask “Did you win?” As parents we need to reset this expectation. Asking an innocent question like that puts too much emphasis on the wins and losses. We need to remember what the goal is, player development, learning the sport and having fun. Asking more specific questions such as “What did you learn today?” “Did you work on [fill in skill here] today?” Or even asking more vague questions like “Did you work hard today?” “How did it go today?” “Did you have fun?” can change the expectation that winning is all we care about.
If we change the way we have the conversation then we’ll start changing the expectation. Learning life’s lessons through sports doesn’t always have to be through wins and losses.