about excellence. Yet, nearly everyone, by definition, is average. When a
child is born they have “unlimited potential” but, in reality they are
likely to be no better than average at everything they do. As parents, how
do we deal with a kid who is average? Better yet, how do we deal with a kid
who is willing to settle for being less than his or her potential, whether
that potential is great or even if they can only be average? Should we
settle as parents and should we let our kids settle as students, athletes
and as people?
Let’s first put
some perspective on being a professional athlete. The four major sports
roughly have a total of 3,519 spots: Baseball (750), Basketball (360),
Football (1,696) and Hockey (731). Of course there are minor leaguers,
college players, guys who get hurt and others that break in each year, but
regardless of how you look at it, this is still a very small number. By
contrast, in 2002 the American Bar Association had nearly 410,000 lawyers
and the American Medical Association had 266,000 members and not all doctors
and lawyers join their associations..
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Coach’s Corner, Continued
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there were about 60 million people in the
United States between the ages of 20-35 giving a kid about a 1 in 20,000
chance of breaking into the bigs and that doesn’t include the more than 6
billion people living in the rest of the world. While that’s somewhat better
than 1 in a million, being the best in your local little league or making
the all-star team still puts any player a very long way from guaranteed
stardom or even making the high school team.
The guys that
play professional sports are truly amazing in every way. Not only were they
the best in their city but they were able to stay in school, not get injured
or develop other problems that could derail their opportunity. Not only do
they have absolutely ridiculous talent, but they also have a work ethic and
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need to then evaluate what this means to all of our average kids who are
participating in an activity where being in the top 1% doesn’t necessarily
do you any good. This requires that we realistically look at our kids, their
expectations, their ability and help set proper goals based on the
assessment. This doesn’t mean that if our kids aren’t going to be
professional or even college athletes that they shouldn’t be playing sports.
However, it does mean that they should be playing sports for different goals
that we can help them realize.
should play team and individual sports. The lessons learned through
competition are unarguably life skills that are used in school and later in
business and in inter-personal relationships. Working with teammates or
mentors and coaches and simply learning to lose with dignity are crucial
components of life. Yet, even acknowledging the importance of these lessons,
how do parents and kids deal with just being average?
- Redefine Success.
Coach John Wooden has as the top building block of his “Pyramid of Success”
the objective of Competitive Greatness. This is defined as “the peace of
mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the
effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming”. This allows
everybody to be successful if they are honest with their ability, work hard
and are determined to achieve personal greatness. This means that
everybody’s success is not measured against anybody else; it is an
assessment of whether or not each kid can be their personal best.
Realistic and Achievable Goals.
Even if a kid has an ultimate goal of playing professional sports, they have
to understand the building blocks to eventually reach that goal. Children
crawl, walk, waddle, run and, eventually, they may run fast. The same has to
be true for setting goals so that parents can help their kids understand
what the “next” step in the progression to becoming a professional, college
or even a high school athlete can be. A 10-year old baseball player can work
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Coach’s Corner, Continued
with two hands, extending the bat through the strike zone
and beginning to locate pitches. A high school player will need to have
different goals that are continuous and achievable steps that lead further
down the path of their personal success.
- Help Build a Work Ethic.
For most people, it is hard to continually work with maximum effort and
determination. However, those are key elements of John Wooden’s Pyramid that
will lead to “success”. Without working hard it is impossible to reach your
potential and therefore, by definition, you are failing. In law school I had
a friend who, while a great guy, would be the first to admit that he wasn’t
the smartest guy in the school. Yet, that didn’t keep him from being in the
top 10% of our graduating class because he worked harder than anybody else.
He now has a great job and his work ethic continues to allow him to maximize
his potential. Pete Rose is another example of determination and hustle; he
simply worked harder than anybody else and became baseball’s all-time hit
leader. Without this type of extreme determination any goal or dream,
especially in the world of sports, is simply a fantasy. It is essential that
regardless of the potential a kid has that they realize that each decision
they make every day to work harder or to give up is a reflection of their
own determination and, ultimately, of the success that they will have
throughout their life.
If kids learn
how to work harder, get along with others and reach their potential through
sports, these lessons can be easily translated into schoolwork,
relationships, and careers. Sports have become a classroom of life that
magnifies the dichotomy of success or failure, hard workers or slackers,
winners or losers.
sports and in life, as parents we have to help our kids fantasize about
success that is beyond their potential. If we allow them to settle for
ultimate goals that limit their productively by setting the bar too low, we
have artificially limited their accomplishments. While everyone grows up
with differing economic and social limitations in addition to mental and
physical capabilities, for those whose greatest goal is graduating from high
school we certainly can’t be disappointed when some of them fail at that and
very few accomplish anything more.
Setting the bar too high is a much better way to err as long as parents
understand the basics of intermediate goals. Although it is likely that the
final objective may not be reached, each individual will certainly achieve
much more by continuing to meet smaller steps, developing a strong work
ethic, and finally reaching John Wooden’s definition of success: reaching
are often taught and learned through sports because there are such immediate
measures of success and failure. Although all of us and our kids are, by
definition, average, that doesn’t mean that we can’t all achieve our goals,
learn life lessons, reach our potential, and ultimately, become a success.
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