Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in Lockroom Logic are solely those of Dan Bauer and do not reflect the opinions of Wisconsin Prep Hockey or its partners. Dan presents his opinions based upon his lifetime of teaching and coaching experience and we present them unedited.
The search to make our lives simpler, more efficient and just plain easier is never ending. From riding lawn mowers, to Rhumba vacuums to remote controls to unbridled technology our lives seemingly get easier and easier. It begs the question, should we strive to make everything easier?
I hear parents all too often speak about being sure their kids have it better (easier) than they did when they grew up. They jump in their imaginary helicopters and watch over their kids with the intent to shield them from all adversity. They grant their every wish and provide them with a king’s ransom of toys and electronic gadgets. Children who never “want” for anything, or experience failure or are never left to solve their own problems will be ill-equipped to deal with life after over-protective mom and dad are grounded. Contrary to the popular Staples advertising campaign there is no “easy button” in life.
I am slightly amused and mostly annoyed by professional athletes who defend their absurd and extravagant contract demands as their need “to take care of my family”. To his credit, Shaquille O’Neal recently told his kids, “We ain't rich, I'm rich”. Millions of us take care of our families every day without the benefit of a multi-million dollar paycheck. In fact I would argue most of us learn to do more with less. The easy button isn’t free and access to it can’t always be purchased. Some parents, similar to our government, believe if you throw enough money at a problem it will go away. In both instances they are wrong, because money itself won’t solve our national issues or train your child to be anything other than “spoiled”. The children raised in the “silver spoon/cake eater” culture have most often proven to be ill-prepared for the realities of life. Money is too often used as a band aide on a hemorrhaging artery. The current student loan forgiveness program is another example of making things easier. The value of the struggle was a key step in the journey of most every successful person. Those who are shielded from it may be richer in financial terms, but poorer in character development and the ability to persevere.
The most valuable currency for your kids is your time; those hours will do more for their character than any amount of money could ever buy.
Youth and high school sports can be a tremendous learning experience for kids if they have a quality coach and perimeter parents. Understanding and observing the boundaries that must exist between parents and the athletic experience is essential to a positive experience. Parking the helicopter and watching from outside the airport fence is a difficult challenge for many parents. Clear eyes, free from the rose-colored glasses and a full heart filled with reasonable expectations and unconditional support can be a winning formula for parents and their athletes.
Athletic achievement is a process that is predicated upon failure. Learning skills and developing knowledge of game situations requires many repetitions and a steady diet of failure. There are no shortcuts and the road to improvement and accomplishment will not be easy or fast. This is where parents must supply the unconditional support, not make excuses for them or encourage them to quit and “try something else”. Perseverance and patience will be required by both the athlete and the parent.
The lessons that playing time must be earned and competition makes us better should not be compromised by threatening or bargaining phone calls to the coach. Virtually nothing comes easy in the world of athletics and those athletes that make it look easy have a long history of struggle and an incredible drive to master their craft. They have paid their dues through their unrelenting effort and a graveyard of past failures. Those failures like a patient and supportive parent, have taught and motivated them to be the best they can be.
Easy is the arch-enemy of all the character traits we desire in our athletes and hope to find in our co-workers, neighbors and leaders of our country. Most of us have been told that life is hard and seldom fair. Athletics teaches the lessons of how to cope with those realities perhaps better than any other vehicle. The road to athletic achievement is filled with obstacles and failure. The majority of championship teams experience catastrophic failure before rebounding to climb that same mountain again. Like life, there is also no easy button in athletics. The immortal and recently mistreated Dr. Seuss said, “Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.”
The invaluable lesson that the struggle yields is truly priceless and at times lifesaving. I recently connected with a former player of mine whom I had not talked to for several years. As we reconstructed the past decade, I learned that he had indeed hit a stretch of life that pushed him to the brink. For most of us, at some point, we will stand on that edge, feeling completely defeated.
In his words, “Had some struggles about 7-8 years ago and almost checked out. Walked the edge and looked over, but was fortunate to have some good people around who kept me from sinking. It was a long road back, but in hindsight I wouldn’t change a second of the journey. A lot of life lessons along the way.”
True adversity, not just getting your feelings hurt, has a distinct way of testing your limits. At the time it is an awful feeling and an unenviable place that you are sure you cannot escape. Fortunately, most of us learn along the way that it is never too dark, never too hopeless, and never too late to find that path back. You have watched others survive worse; you have a support system that grabs your hand and leads you through the pitch black darkness of despair. When you emerge, you don’t ever want to go back, but at the same time completely understand the significance and life changing effect of that struggle. It turns out life isn’t a puzzle that can be solved one time. Instead, each day will bring a new version and you will have to solve it all over again.
As coaches we understand the value of the struggle, the failure and know it is simply part of the process to achieving success. It is equally essential for parents to see the value of their children persevering through problems and challenges. Don’t be the “easy button” your child reaches for when things get tough. Support them and gently guide them through those valuable life lessons.
When true adversity strikes, extend your hand in support, but don’t push the easy button.
Dan Bauer is a free-lance writer, retired teacher & hockey coach in Wausau, WI. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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Please also keep “woofing,” taunting, and otherwise unsportsmanlike behavior to a minimum. Your posts will more than likely be deleted, and worse yet, you reflect badly on yourself, your favorite team and your conference.