I would like to begin by saying that I am not in favor of “participation” trophies for youth athletes. The reason is not that we are giving out trophies to every player; instead, it’s the lack of creativity in what we call them and the meaning behind them. After coaching dozens of youth teams, I know that an eight- year-old player who came to practice, worked hard, played in the games and cheered on his/her teammates is not excited to be recognized as a “participant.” As parents and coaches, we have to be able to come up with something more meaningful than “participant.” [Read more…] about Sport Participation Trophies: A New Perspective
(this blog was previously published on the TeamSnap blog)
I am a crybaby. Sometimes, I cry when I’m inspired or sad. Sometimes, I cry from disappointment or joy. I cried when my high school football team won the state championship. I even cried during an episode of Hannah Montana that I watched with my then 5-year-old daughter.
I’m sensitive, and a lot of things make me cry, especially the things I care deeply about. Tears are an expression of how I feel, and I don’t hold them back. In fact, I recently presented a leadership award to a 9-year-old athlete with tears in my eyes. I had to stop a few times during my speech to settle my voice. I am happy to report that during my speech, not one person attending shouted, “Suck it up, big boy. There’s no crying in award presentations!”
Why is it that that when kids cry during sports, they are labeled “crybabies”? When a kid cries, it seems to be some horrible indication of weakness. What I find most surprising is that the parents are usually the ones that get the most upset and embarrassed when their child cries.
We spend countless hours coaching and encouraging our kids to work hard and give it their all. Before games, we preach about having fun, making an effort and believing in yourself. It’s a fact of life that things don’t always go the way we plan. We will all experience the pain of failure. We won’t always make the tackle or record the strikeout. Throughout our lives, reality will often fall short of expectations regardless of preparation or how much we believe in ourselves.
Why cry? Because it hurts!
I have coached kids between 5 and 12 years old for many years. Each season I have been blessed with a few kids who work so hard and care so much that they cry when they fall short of what they expect of themselves. Here is a conversation I had with our pitcher after he hit two batters and allowed five runs in one inning. To set the stage, our pitcher came into the dugout in tears. His father immediately gave him a stern talking to and essentially, if not literally, told him to “suck it up.” I went over and sat next him on the bench.
Me: “Are you OK?”
Pitcher: (Sobbing loudly)
Me: “Are you tired of hearing that there is no crying in baseball?”
Pitcher: (Sobbing slowed)
Me: “What would you say if I told you that’s a lie? There IS crying in baseball. After all, there’s crying in life right? I cry sometimes myself and I’m a tough old man.”
Pitcher: (sobbing stopped and he looked directly into my eyes)
Me: “When you really care about something, and it doesn’t work out; it’s OK to cry. It shows how much you care. One of the things I like most about you is how much you care. Don’t ever stop caring that much about baseball and what you have to offer to your team. Are you OK?”
Pitcher: “Yes, sir.”
Me: “You can keep crying if you have to, but I need you to finish it up soon because we need you. The game is not over, and your team needs you.”
I’ve had similar conversations with kids from dozens of teams and in dozens of situations. After each conversation the child felt accepted and understood, which enabled him or her to accept, own and grow from his or her failure and frustration instead of hiding because of the fear of ridicule. Failures can be the signposts on our journey to success if we read them, understand them and take action. Pretending failures don’t matter and bottling up the emotions is not the way to build strong and emotionally balanced kids.
I am a crybaby because I care … just like the kids I get to coach.
“I’m a volunteer youth coach, however, I don’t coach football, baseball, basketball, soccer or any other sport for that matter. I coach the kids that play them. This is not a play on words; it’s a paradigm shift in the way a youth coach views his or her opportunity and responsibility. STOP coaching the sports played by kids and START coaching the kids that play the sports.” –Brad Jubin, APIVEO
It’s a matter of perspective
We teach our kids to not listen to what others say about them yet nearly everything they do is graded or evaluated by someone. “If it’s not important then why is it important?” is an interesting paradox. Some of this confusion is eliminated when “you consider the source.” In other words, knowing if the person that made a statement is or is not qualified to make that statement. While this is often true it still doesn’t give a steadfast rule on who and what we should or should not listen too. Ironically, some of the most unlikely people will share some of the most profound insights at the most unexpected time.
This article was inspired by Emmitt Smith.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about youth sports. We talked about the lifelong benefits of being involved in sports as a kid. At one point during the conversation, my friend became very serious and declared that “confidence” was the greatest life lesson he learned through his years of participating in sports. I was truly impressed with his confidence when he said “confidence” and I wanted to learn more about it.
Over the years I have used the word “confidence” countless times and in countless situations. But what is confidence? I know there’s a lot more to confidence than just having “a feeling of assurance, especially self-assurance.” How do we intentionally share the concept of confidence with our kids, so that they can grow up confidently?
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus once said, “Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work.”
From the golf course to the gridiron to the executive board room, confidence is built through hard work and dedication to a specific goal. Confidence grows in us as we work toward that goal. A football player is confident because of the hours, weeks, months and years he has invested in his abilities. In the same way, a gymnast wouldn’t have the confidence to attempt a flip on a four inch piece of wood if she hadn’t worked her way up to it through practice and effort. Confidence is built in the same way any skill or talent is honed and perfected; with great effort.
Emmitt Smith is a confident man. He is also the reigning NFL All-Time leading rusher, a Dancing with the Stars Champion and responsible for a flood of tears during his Hall of Fame induction speech. Each of these accomplishments in and of itself confirm that Emmitt Smith is a confident man. But when you look at the effort behind the accomplishment, it’s easy to see that his confidence came from hard work. In his book “GAME ON”, Emmitt Smith said that his emotional speech at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony came after hundreds of hours of work, practice and effort. Confidence is the direct result of hard work. Confidence is the fruit of our labor.
So how do we bring up confident kids? The first step is to stop “telling” them to be confident; confidence is not a feeling that they can simply experience on demand. The second step is to help kids discover their talents and gifts. Then we must enable them to work at becoming better and stronger in those areas. Finally, we should help them find opportunities where they can share their gifts and talents to benefit and help others.
On a personal note: I write articles to share ideas that will help kids learn about leadership and character. This article took me at least 100 times longer to write than it took you to read. For that reason, I am confident in sharing it with you.
This article was previously shared on TeamSnap.
As a youth coach, I start every season visualizing each player as a piece of clay. Why clay? Clay can be shaped and molded. It can be flat as a pancake or long and skinny like a pencil. It can be rolled into a ball or formed into a square. In fact, clay can become almost any shape you can image. The amazing thing about sculpting clay is there is no waste. No matter what you create, you can use every bit of the clay you have.