Own Your Game
When I first started writing Random Thoughts from the Sidelines I thought it would be a monthly thing. Boy was I wrong!
Every night spent in EDA gives me more grist for my mill, so to speak. I’d thought after my last blog I would be writing about success, but my attention has been drawn elsewhere. Parents Behaving Badly. Not just badly, but criminally. We’re talking the possibility of losing life or limb.
Apparently last week, there was a group of parents who had to be dispersed by police. Unhappy with the referee, they gathered after the game to mete out their form of justice. Just like the old West, they had put together a posse to wrangle up that ref and give him what they felt he justly deserved. I’m not certain at this point if this meant a beat down, a tongue thrashing, or being dragged by wild horses. But I digress, In any case the police came to break up the scene and so no wild horses were hurt. To put things in perspective, the parents of a group of 13-year old boys were going to put the hurt” on a referee for a league game. Nope, I said nothing about the World Cup here. Nor did I say this was in Brazil. In a small sleepy little Utah town, the ref needed to have police protection.
Didn’t anyone learn anything from the death of Utah soccer referee, Ricardo Portillo? He was the first referee in Utah to die as a result of officiating a youth soccer game. Is there now a bounty on Utah soccer referees? And if so, who pays the price?
That answer is simple. The kids. The kids pay the price for their parents. The kids pay the toll for the adults in their lives who cannot act like adults. For whatever reason, the parents entire self-esteem, desire to live, apparent glory in the afterlife, rests upon the shoulders of their 13-year old kids. What the hell!
I haven’t even begun to touch upon the fact that soccer refs don’t do it for the money because they don’t get paid enough to put up with the normal crap in an everyday game. They are not given hazard pay, war zone bonuses, or any other incentive to work in a combat zone. Most soccer games don’t have the possibility of loss of life or limb. When it gets to the point that police are required to attend any youth soccer match, the obvious choice is simple. Forfeit the match and the next two matches. I know, the kids suffer again, but in the long run a great lesson is learned. Better to serve a two game suspension and have the player learn violence is not the solution then have a 17-year old kid go to prison for killing a ref.
I’m not living in some world with rose-colored glasses. I realize the depth of emotion soccer brings out in fans all over the world. It’s not something I choose to participate in because I don’t see the reason to maim or kill someone over a game. Yes, I realize that to many it is more than a game. BUT IT IS A GAME IN UTAH YOUTH SOCCER. NO EXCUSES.
I’ve been pondering this thought for a few days now. What exactly is success? Is success different for an athlete than for a scholar? Is it different for a mother and a father? Who defines success? Do we or does society? Who’s right?
Lots of questions. Not many clear answers. In fact I cannot find a clear answer. I can only espouse upon my definition of success.
The idea of success has changed throughout my life. When I was young and in school success was based upon my grades. I was successful when I had all A’s. Not so successful with a B and heaven forbid anything lower ever happened. As I played more competitive tennis success was based upon how many trophies I won. Then suddenly when I was 14 I had a shift in my thoughts. I was playing against college athletes where I was not expected to win. That took me a few weeks to assimilate although I must say my expectation was always to win.
One day sticks out in my memory. I made the finals of a state tournament and was playing the top player from the University of Utah. Here I was a high school freshman playing in the “big leagues”. I lost in three sets. I played the best tennis I was capable of playing. I didn’t cry or throw a fit when I lost; I smiled. Now you would have to know that I was a very passionate player. Throwing a fit after losing was quite within my natural response. Not that I threw in it in front of people but look out when I got home. I wasn’t a sore loser per se, but I just hated to lose. But that one day I gave everything I had and I knew it. I was successful.
When they gave out the trophies I smelled like a wet mule but clutched that second place trophy because it meant the world to me. I was proud of myself.
Two days later as I went to practice my bubble exploded in my face as my coach laid into me. I should have done this. I should have done that. If I had done those things I would be a winner. Suddenly that trophy didn’t have much meaning. When I got home I put it in my closet, not quite ready to put it in the trash.
That day I changed. Suddenly I didn’t know what was success and what made a winner. I kept playing but things began to change for me. That’s another story that needs to be told another day.
When I became an adult making money and being able to buy whatever I wanted defined my success. Then one day my bubble exploded. I was in a serious car accident that left me with psycho-motor seizures. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t do what I wanted. I couldn’t even get my brain to behave.Suddenly my idea of success was getting through a day without having a seizure.
As years passed success changed again. Being a mother defined my success. Then writing a novel defined my success.
Now, my success is defined by being at peace with myself. That constitutes a lot of things but to me looking in the mirror and knowing I am doing the best I can, defines my success/
I guess that would be my final answer. Success is doing the best you can. It doesn’t have anything to do with the big “W” or making the premier team. It has to do with being the very best person you can be. No one will know if you are truly successful because the only one who knows what is inside of you, is you. Just remember success changes. Don’t put too much stock in what today’s definition of success. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.
What is motivation for the youth athlete? There are many sides to this question but for now let’s look at two extremes giving trophies to everyone and punishment after losing.
First, let’s talk about trophies for everyone. I’m the first to say that I think kids should be rewarded. However, reward should be commensurate with the action. Not every deed or action in life gets a trophy. Just being there doesn’t earn a trophy. Now I understand that many feel their children should be rewarded with a trophy for participation. I understand the participation theory. Not everyone can win but reward the child for trying. Sounds great but not much practical application in the real world. Do you get a raise simply because you go to work? Not in my life experience. What I get from work is a feeling of intrinsic worth. I learned that from not always getting a trophy. I also learned that I didn’t have to be the winner to know that I did the best I could. Trophies are not the standard of success. What they are is something to remind you how hard you worked, perhaps how lucky you were one day, and in the end something to be dusted.
Polar opposite approach is punishment for losing. I’ve seen variations of this theory but one particularly stands out. Running after losing. This happens in all sports with all ages of kids. I just have one question, when was the last time that humiliation and fear were positive motivators?
Kids play sports because they love to play. They are excited to learn new things. They relish the way they feel when they have worked hard and improved. They love the fact they are successful. All this goes down the drain when an adult, parent or coach, makes the kid afraid to lose. When fear takes over, self-doubt rules. The kid worries about if this is the right pass and the opportunity to pass slips away. They worry if they should shoot and in that instant they freeze.
There are just some things that make no sense and punishment for losing is one of them. The fact is, in life we will always lose more than we win. I’ve always been curious if those coaches who make their players run after losing, run laps around the office every time they lose? I would think they would be doing a lot of running because in business there are many losses: loss of a customer, loss of a friendship, loss of a business deal, loss of communication, loss of pride, being late to a meeting, I could go on but I think you get the gist.
We don’t get everything we want, we don’t win every contest, and we are not perfect. Kids are not supposed to b perfect. Yes that’s right, your kids are not perfect! What sports gives a kid is the confidence to rise after they have fallen. The confidence to know they can try again. That’s what sports are about. Sports are about wanting to achieve the best possible result, but in the end, there is no ongoing perfection. Every single champion has more failure than successes. It’s part of the process. No one is perfect.
Have you noticed how many times I put the word perfect in there? Just in case you want to see perfect, it’s right before your eyes.
So where exactly does motivation lie? The answer is, within the player. The coach and mentor serve as an external motivation. They give the young athlete opportunities to learn, opportunities to try new things and fail. A good coach will allow his or her players to learn in a safe environment. That doesn’t mean competition doesn’t bring pressure, because it does. That’s the nature of competition. But, in the end, win or lose, most kids want to do their best. They want to please their coaches and parents. Kids don’t go out to compete saying, “I’m going to play like crap because it’s what I do.” They should go out thinking, “I’m going to do my best. I’m going to try hard and I will be successful.”
Kids want to win. It’s part of the human condition. No one wants to lose. That’s one of the hard life lessons. There is no shame in losing. Just get up and try again.
Now that’s where the rub comes in. What defines success? Is it the big W? Is it playing to the highest level and still “losing”? What exactly is success?
I guess that’s a subject to be broached next time. In the meanwhile, go tell your kids how proud you are of them. Tell them every single day because that’s what’s important.