*Editors Note: "Everything new is well forgotten old." I made a few alterations to the original article from 2016. 2020 has only cemented these sentiments. YouTube Video (2013)
Whose really changed? I often hear the phrase "kids these days" thrown around loosely by critical adults. I am the first to admit I've grown increasingly more guilty with time. Usually, I contrast my era from my ever so high pedestal. I frequently tell my athletes of the days in which "I was locked out of the house in the dead of hot summers" and told to "play until the sun goes down." I also especially like to recall making it through my freshman year of college at UW-Madison without yet owning a cell phone. Calling cards are second only to the beeper.
History will do its part in animating social differences and progressions. Opinions certainly tend to bias or embellish. Regardless, the facts are kids these days are a product of YOU, US, and ME.
Kids these days are "pudging" out. The CDC says one out of five are overly plump. They are spending more time slouched in front of a flat screen and have more experience pushing buttons on a cell phone than they do climbing on monkey bars. Conversely, adults these days are guilty of the same damn issues. Every other adult in the U.S. is overweight. We hit the scales for an extra fifteen pounds of blubber in comparison to the late 80's. Adults these days don't consume phytonutrient (fruits and veggies) rich foods. Adults these days don't find the 20-40 minutes a day out of their "insanley" busy lives to get up and move.
And its not just a "health thing." Our priorities are wack. We could name the back ups to our back ups on our Fantasy Football team but we can't name more than one or two teachers that spend the day with our 7th grader.
Adults these days often say "my kid doesn't want to _____(fill in the blank with: eat good, exercise, stop to help someone, sacrifice something, play outside). Unfortunately, kids are merely a reflection of unaccountable adults.
Fitness coaches often condition the body with the Law of the Farm: what you reap you sow. We should condition our (kids) mindsets using the same mantra. Leading by example is the best way to make that stick.
God hasn't blessed me with my own children just yet. However, my coaching style often reflects that of a parent. Here are my top five ways to build the champion "kid" in all of us:
1. "Show Up, Step Up, Lead Don't Manage."- My dad was my first coach. He gave me my first lesson in "Experiential Learning" by allowing me to figure out how to ride a bicycle without giving me much help. When I was five or six years old he bolstered his resume with the title "receiver coach." I learned "button hooks" and "down and outs." To his surprise, my first year of flag football became my dad's first year as an organized youth coach. He stepped up and stood in the gap when no one else would. He did a great job implementing simple practice plans, teaching the basics, communicating according to his audience and making sure to set fair expectations for all. Everyone played equally and everyone learned. I was humbled when my dad made it clear that nepotism had no place in our family or on the field.
As my coaching career has matured I've realized the coaches who made the biggest impact on my life not only lived the sport but also offered their hearts to my teammates and I. If they lacked in knowledge, they surely made up in character and leadership. My coaches were great people first.
Kids and adults alike don't want to be managed. They want to be lead, inspired and EMPOWERED. Most of all, they need an example. My dad, Pam Lahman, Kevin Kraemer, Dan English, Jim Mork, Bill Kirsch, Tim Paulsen, Fritz Richter (the list goes on)...they were all great humans who provided an awesome example. Many youth athletes in my community felt their impact.
2. "Listen for the talent that whispers." -George Anders, author of Rare Find, separates two types of talent: "that which shouts and that which whispers." It is easy to find the top performers. As a coach or scout it takes zero skill to look for the biggest, fastest, baddest and highest scorer. Rasmus Ankersen, author of The Gold Mine Effect, describes the search for talent that whispers best "Shut up and start to listen! Listen for the story, the theme and the reasons driving performance. Listen for what people say without saying it out loud." Ankersen uses Timothy Gallwey's performance equation: "Performance = potential - interference (P= p - i)" to provide more context into discovering unique unrevealed talent.
John O' Sullivan, founder of "Changing The Game Project" elaborated brilliantly:
"Our system is setup to find the talent that shouts, but not the talent that whispers.
In our hyper-competitive youth sports world, we are racing to the bottom in a huge hurry to accelerate development. We are pushing single-sport specialization younger and younger. We are having tryouts, making cuts, and forming travel teams while children are still in elementary school. Parents are afraid that if they don’t hire a private trainer for their 8-year-old, she will be pushed out of the system. We are pouring the training volume of a fifteen-year-old into a nine-year-old, and then proclaiming 'look how good he is' and splattering the video all over YouTube.
We are creating a youth sports environment that only works for those with the most money, the most time, and often, the well-intentioned parents with the greatest willingness to look the other way and ignore not only all the science and research, but that gut-feeling that says 'I don’t think this is working for my kid, but I am going to do it anyway because I am scared if I don't, my kid will miss out.'
We are throwing dozens of eggs against a wall and hoping one or two won’t crack, and with little regard for those eggs that do break.
We are great at selecting the talent that shouts. These are the kids who are usually born within a few months of the arbitrary calendar cutoff, known as the relative age effect. Study after study has shown the bias toward older birth dates in sports(those born in the first half of the sporting calendar year.) Another study shows how the relative age bias is increasing. Programs select those who have specialized first. We grab the biggest, fastest and strongest, and select based on output, instead of looking at the input that created said output."
Listen for the whispers of potential...harvest the effort..pay attention to the emerging talent unaccompanied by privilege and void of resources... BE A PART OF THE SUCCESS STORY.
3. "You Did Good Kid." - Talent and potential can only be actualized when exceptional effort collides with a genuine appreciation of process. Self confidence has to be nurtured early on through relationships with superiors, friends, and family. Scripture will always be my go to coaching manual. I love how Books such as 1 Thessalonians (5:11) encourage the coach in many of us, "We are to love one another, encourage one another and build each other up." Kids are HUNGRY...Feed them the "coaching sandwich." Discuss corrective feedback between two layers of praise... If competition breeds success, push kids to compete within first. Reward enthusiasm, body language, focus, attention to detail, persistence, timeliness and any often over looked characteristic that can create positive change..."ENCOURAGE" - to add to someones heart.
4. "Embrace Failure." - Million dollar marketing ad campaigns manipulate and influence our kids early. Some of my athletes have sported Nike t-shirts with "Fear Failure" slapped on the chest. That's some serious BULL$%#@! Success is catalyzed by the flames of failure. Teach kids to take smart risks, to learn from failure through analysis and constructive feedback. Push kids to welcome the chance of failure. Most importantly, teach kids to accept the responsibility of their losses and setbacks. Have a short memory as my high school football coach Steve Rux always said, "Own it, learn from it, than trash it."
5. "Empower." - Define: goals and standards. Educate: the how and why. Do: promote action and inspire ideas into results. Make kids part of the mission. Teach them the way, show them the way, and than most importantly get out of their way.