By Josh McDonald, Project Manager with Nexus 5 Group
I spend a lot of time coaching youth sports. Baseball, basketball, and football. I've coached dozens of kids and spent countless hours on courts and fields. As a coach, you get kids from all walks of life and all stages of athleticism. A youth coach must “herd cats” while teaching some of the toughest motor skills possible. It’s no easy task. (Hat tip to the teachers out there.) Coaches will have the opportunity to watch some kids grow into adults. Others will come and go.
No matter, while in the care of a coach, we have a responsibility; provide a foundation for roots of character to grow wide and deep. In many ways, this is like operating in today’s workforce. The training, development, and type of people you work with matter. I hear complaints about younger generations entering the workforce.
What are we doing to train and develop the necessary ethics and skills?
I have a vested interest in youth sports due to the impact on my life as well as currently having two kids in this stage of life. My son, 9 years old, has played baseball, basketball, and football while wrestling is around the corner. My daughter, 8 years old, dances and cheerleads year-round and I'm very thankful for her coaches (because I don’t know anything about either of those.)
An ongoing conversation amongst a group of coaches I run with is specifically directed at how we develop young men… not athletes… young men. You see, these youth sports programs do a lot for kids. However, these are just tools to develop high character and quality young men and women.
Wins vs. Character
Here's the thing… In my opinion, we parents have steered this whole youth sports thing in the wrong direction. It's become more about wins and stats and less about character and development. For most, our children will develop a love of the game but will go no further than a high school sport or activity. It’s unlikely they will play in college. The odds, in total are 13:1 that they play at ANY college. 57:1 that your child plays an NCAA I sport. (Stats here...)
So why do we put so much pressure on our kids to succeed at hitting a ball while undervaluing the development of characteristics that will last a lifetime?
These developmental years are setting our kids up to either excel or crash as they are challenged with adversity. Assuming the previous statement is accurate, how should this change our perspective as coaches and parents? What life lessons can our children learn through sports at an early age? Which of these lessons are going to assist in their development and growth as a person for years to come?
Mom and Dad
Mom and Dad, this one’s for you and you may need to dig deep. Do you get more satisfaction out of your kid winning or out of your kid growing? Don’t get me wrong. I love winning. However, it took me many years, but I've learned that there are more important lessons and values under the surface.
As our kids enter the workforce, the impact parents and coaches have had on character development will matter more than ever. What type of people do you hope for as colleagues? Who do you want to hand the reigns to when your time is up? Whatever those answers are, coach and develop those characteristics.
Start with commitment and work ethic. We shouldn't quit if things don't go our way.
Develop young athletes that have grit. Perseverance is required to reach long-term goals.
Train them to have confidence in who they are, not what they do. This creates resiliency.
Teamwork takes communication. It also commands and gives respect.
Challenges expand boundaries and limitations. This creates transformational leaders.
For clarification, I'm not saying you shouldn’t win and be proud of those wins. Play to win and have fun doing it. We celebrate “the wins” at work often. But, win the right way. Win with integrity, commitment, and teamwork. Earn the win through hard work and perseverance. Develop others and extend grace so you have others with whom to celebrate. Wins grant immediate satisfaction. Character development takes time.
Coach it now, because the lessons of character last a lifetime.