Last week my post was called, “I Want It Now.” It was about how we live in such an instant gratification society that we just want everything to happen for us right now, and yet, so much of the world doesn’t work that way. The really big, important things that we want – like the goals we set – take time.
I spoke about the value of coaches making sure that they not get caught up in wanting and needing everything for themselves to happen right now. The things they seek take time, and they need to have patience to let the process of achieving their goals develop over time to become what they want to become and what they want their teams to become.
Today, I want you to focus on your athletes and helping them through this same dynamic of instant gratification vs. being patient and working to help them stay the course when things get tough.
In last week's post, I used my own personal situation of trying to lose weight as an example of the “wanting it now” mindset. I told you I had just started a “No-Sugar Challenge," and how after only four days, I wanted my goal to be achieved.
I am now eleven days into my challenge, and I am still not seeing the results I wanted. I have had a metaphorical roller coaster ride over these eleven days with regards to my weight.
I started the challenge at 205 pounds. The subsequent days have looked like this:
204 (It’s a start)
205 (Hey, that’s the wrong way!)
201 (Even nicer – the lowest I have been in 6 months!!)
201 (Holding steady)
201 (Still? Okay, but that’s better than it going up.)
202 (Uh-oh! It’s going up!)
202 (Umm, what’s happening?)
204 (OMG! Are you serious?! What happened?!)
What happened is that I’m a human being. Human beings’ weight fluctuates. It’s a somewhat natural occurrence.
However, I’m also a human being who is doing a variety of things to lower my weight. I have cut out most of the sugar that I normally consume, and I am working out 6 days a week. And because of those two things, I am also conscious of the other things I eat and do, so I am focused on trying to do even more than just those two things.
But it feels like I still need to do more or at least stay focused on doing more of what I am already doing. And that is the toughest part, and it is what I want to focus on with you when it comes to your kids and your teams.
But first, hear me out on my situation because what I'm going through is a great example of the kind of thing we all go through at times, your players included.
Getting Depressed About It
After I got off the scale and sat down to put my shoes on this morning, I was so bummed. Thoughts raced through my mind about how I am not handling this right, and how this is not going as well as it should be.
I have 8 days left in this little mini-challenge I gave myself. I want to be under 200 pounds by then. I haven’t been under 200 since last spring, and that was only after being sick for a few days. However, my weight actually WENT UP two pounds since yesterday morning. It was so depressing.
As I sat contemplating this, bad thoughts entered my head. Part of me wanted to say, “Screw it. If I’m going to stay here in the 200’s, why bother?”
But another part of me was turning around and getting in that part’s face saying, “Stay the course. It’s only been 11 days. It took a lot longer than 11 days for you to put that weight on. You are doing so much more for yourself than just losing some weight. You are becoming much healthier and establishing better habits. You’ve got this!”
I Need a Coach!
I need that guy staying in my ear, supporting and encouraging me, but also holding me accountable to my standards and my goals. I need that voice to be the stronger voice than the other guy's voice.
But that doesn’t always work. Not everyone is strong enough to do this alone. We often need more than just our own voice, our own conscience, to help us through our challenges. We need a coach.
Moments of weakness and temptation can creep in and knock us down. We often don’t get back up when that happens. We figure, “What’s the point?” and we go back to our old ways. We need someone there to help us get back up.
I can see how alcoholics, smokers, and others who struggle with certain addictions in their lives go back to their addiction. It’s just so much easier because it provides immediate joy and relief from the struggles they are facing to overcome their challenge. But if they have a coach helping them, their challenge is easier, their burden a little lighter, because they have someone there to share it with.
What About Your Players?
As I said in last week’s post, overcoming challenges takes time. It requires effort, patience, and perseverance. And while it has always been difficult, it is sooooo much harder in the instant gratification world of 2020.
Now think about your kids. They have only known this instant gratification world. They’ve grown up with cell phones that give them pretty much anything they want immediately – talking to others, messages to and from people, pictures and videos of friends anywhere in the world, Internet access to any information they need, any song or movie they want to consume, and the games they like to play. And they carry it around with them in their pocket, ready to access all of it the moment they want it. They haven’t had to wait for too many things in life.
Yet they face struggles and challenges like any of us do. They face hardships that cannot be solved immediately. They have books to read for class, essays to write, and tests to study for that can’t be done in the blink of an eye. Those challenges take time.
So do their athletic challenges. They want to have the skills right now that they need to succeed in their sports. They want the victories and championships that they watch others get. They want all the awards and rewards before they have done anything to deserve them.
But like anything else worth achieving, those things take time. People don’t improve their skills and abilities in single workout sessions. They don’t become great scorers, defenders, runners, jumpers, lifters, or leaders overnight. It takes countless hours of effort and attention to detail to become those things.
So when kids struggle with something that can’t be solved now, it’s easy to see how they might just decide not to do it, not continue to fight the good fight and persevere through it. Like anyone else, when those moments hit, they need support, encouragement, and accountability.
In fact, they probably need those things even more than many of us because they haven’t had to deal with them as much, and they are bombarded with messages from others who are not dealing with those struggles, or who have all the things in life that they want (supposedly), or who have chosen not to persevere through the tough times. They see others who often seem to be saying to them, “You don’t need all that challenge and difficulty. Come over here and do what I’m doing and have fun. Don’t worry about the future or working hard or delaying your gratification until later. Just have some fun now.”
They often see the results of their sports heroes (or anyone in any realm) and want those kinds of results now. But they haven’t put in enough time and effort to get those kinds of results yet. They don’t see all the things that those people went through to get their results. They just see the results.
When they don’t get their reward early enough, they wane in their interest or pursuit or focus. Eventually, they may decide it’s too hard or too long to wait, and so they stop doing what they need to do to achieve what they want to achieve.
They Need You Now
It is precisely at those times that they need a coach. It is precisely at those times when they need YOU! Be there for them. Encourage them. Support them. Cheer them on. Re-focus them on their goals. Re-direct them down the path of their valuable habits to achieve their goals. Hold them accountable when they stray off that path. Help them see the value of staying the course and getting back on track toward their goals.
At the 1993 ESPY awards, the late college basketball coach, Jim Valvano, gave one of the most emotional, inspirational speeches ever. Speaking less than two months before he would eventually succumb to the cancer that riddled his body, he told the audience that the motto of his newly formed Jimmy V Foundation for cancer research was, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
His focus was on each of us staying the course, fighting our fights, attacking our own personal challenges with a grit and perseverance that was necessary to overcome the obstacles that we each face.
But Jim Valvano was a coach. He also knew that it’s always better if you have others in your corner helping you in your fight. That’s why he started the Jimmy V Foundation. While each of us needs to battle through our own challenges, when we have others there with us, encouraging, supporting, and pushing us, we can accomplish so much more.
Valvano’s words can be a rallying cry for you to help your kids as they face their own challenges. Don’t give up on them. Help them through their challenges in whatever way you can help them. But also, be a model for them of the perseverance necessary to overcome their challenges by not ever giving up in your fight to overcome yours.
They need you to help them do all that they need to do to stay the course every day. Be the coach who is always in their corner giving them whatever it is they need to battle every day to become the best they’re capable of becoming.