Some things are worth repeating, even when your audience doesn’t seem to care or understand.
Some messages don’t bring immediate results or even draw the attention of your listeners.
But concepts that are modeled and “preached” consistently still stand a chance of becoming a part of someone’s character.
Such is the case when coaching kids in youth sports.
At younger ages, the mom/dad/coach figure gets by with fumbling through teaching the rules of the game and basic fundamental skills.
As players get older, the pressure to win often creates an unhealthy mix between learning and winning (winning now!). Teaching of fundamentals, good work habits, team-building, and strong character often gets shoved into a corner while practices and instruction are centered on winning now and developing the next superstar.
Coaches at any age have the responsibility to help kids become their best…….at life. Work ethic, determination, a competitive spirit, accountability. They all come into play along the way. And somewhere along the way, coaches have to realize that the kids they’re leading aren’t going to be playing the game much longer.
I’ve been privileged to coach two of my kids in basketball through three years of middle school, most recently my son. As my son passed through his final middle school season, I became very aware of the future of him and his teammates. They weren’t all going to be high school basketball players, but they were all going to be high school students soon.
The talks before, during, and after practices and games began to take more of a tone of developing strong character and making good decisions. Most of these subjects were met with looks of “can we just start practice?” or kids not even listening as they put their shoes on to leave after a game.
A lesson I learned early in coaching was this: If at least one kid is listening, then I will keep saying what is important for them all to hear (but everybody else has to shut up for that one kid to hear).
The man who shared coaching duties with me also shared in leadership philosophies. So we kept preaching. And we may have bored some kids to death at times. But we harped on concepts that applied on and off the court.
-Make good decisions.
-Be a good teammate.
-Decide that nobody will outwork you in practice today.
-Don’t just settle for whatever falls in your lap. Work hard. Compete hard.
-Earn the respect of your coaches, opponents, and teammates.
-Success and improvement doesn’t come overnight. Do your best every day.
-If you don’t like where you’re at or how things are going, do something about it.
-The world doesn’t revolve around you, think of others.
-Never be a blamer or an excuse maker.
– Be a leader. Do things to make the people around you better.
My son and some of his teammates have moved on to the world of high school basketball now. I watch as a parent, and not a coach, for the first time since he was a 4th grader. But the “nervous parent locked in on his own kid” has left me.
I watch all my former players closely now, observing as both a coach and a parent. Cheering for small triumphs for each one. Seeing how hard they compete. Seeing how well they respond to coaching at the next level. Trying to get a gauge on how well we prepared them for the “nexts” in life.
At a recent JV game, I got an unexpected glimpse at a lesson learned……one of those lessons we were often selling and doubted anybody was buying.
A two-on-none fast break. Ballhandler approaches basket from the left. He has a teammate on the right side of the basket, about two steps behind him. Player with the ball hasn’t scored or even shot in this game (a big lead with minutes left). In fact, he has scored very few points on the season. But his open teammate on the right has just scored what may have been his first points of the season minutes earlier (with much celebration from the bench.
Instead of shooting a wide-open layup, he hesitates slightly and shovels the ball to his teammate for 2 more points. Another small eruption from the home bench and a good response from the crowd.
I watch in silence. It was my son that gave up the ball. I looked at my wife without speaking. He gets it. My reaction would have been the same for any of the kids that may have made the same play.
I’ve been more excited at sporting events for my kids. My daughter scored an unlikely acrobatic last minute goal to tie a regional semi-final soccer game……….and I may or may not have screamed like a madman and raced down the sidelines. My other daughter made a free-throw with no time on the clock to send a game to overtime in a huge upset win……..made greater because I could see that she was a nervous wreck after missing the first one.
But I’ve never been more proud of one of my kids in a sporting event than I was at that moment. “Son, people notice those things. It’s not a big deal if you take that shot, but it is a big deal that you didn’t. People will remember what you did. Those are the things that build teams and make them better.”
It’s not a big deal. But it is.
“Make good choices. Be a leader. Do things to make the people around you better.”
He listened. I know others did too.
Parents and coaches……keep preaching it. They may not seem to be listening. It may not help you win the next game. But it may show up when you least expect it.
We’re not really raising ballplayers……we’re raising winners.
If it’s worth repeating, keep repeating it.