There is a lot going on in the news right now so you may have missed that 3 UCLA basketball players were arrested last week in China, accused of shoplifting. They have been suspended indefinitely for now. As I write this the story is unfolding, but regardless of the outcomes this situation stirs the pot on a conversation that is long overdue.
We are raising a generation without precedent. Life feels reactionary and as a parent of a middle schooler, I often feel I’m catching up more than responding confidently to a situation. The hamster wheel of life can spin me straight into a panic if I lose sight of the end goal.
The internet, social media, bullying, gaming, and a tense political climate our children desire to speak into whether they fully understand an issue or not all combine to keep me awake at night on my knees. I want my children to be safe. I want them to develop discernment. Most of all, I want them to be successful and healthy citizens.
Here’s What I Know
Our children will become their best selves when there is a variety of people speaking into them with a united voice. For athletes, this includes the voice of their coaches.
I speak for myself here, but I wonder if you might find yourself saying “me too”. When I’m trying to maneuver myself and our sons through the week I lose sight of the fact that experiences today are meant to shape who the boys will be when they are adults. I find myself with a short-term perspective on a long-term investment.
A coach’s wife once reminded me that when I find myself panicked about a situation I need to pause and say one thing; “eye on the prize”. And when it comes to my sons the “prize” is about much more than surviving the week, or the month, or even the year. As a parent, my responsibility includes shaping my children into good citizens who understand the difference between right and wrong regardless of who is around them, and I cannot do it alone.
We Have to Work Together
Parents, it can be really hard to allow other adults to influence our children. A tension can arise when our children begin to think independently, and their opinions don’t align exactly with ours. We can feel inadequate and defensive. We lose sight of the fact that even the strongest convictions expressed aren’t necessarily permanent. We also can forget that it is a healthy sign of independence when our children begin to explore why they believe what they believe.
Your coach wants to win even more than you do. Your coach’s family is housed and fed based on wins and losses.
Trust Your Coach and Take Responsibility
Obviously, not all coaches are the same, but the vast majority of coaches understand that players who are excellent leaders, have strong work ethics, and strive to be people of integrity are going to be better athletes. Because of this, most coaches include leadership development principles in their everyday coaching interactions.
It may feel uncomfortable when your child is called out for being lazy. It may even be something you disagree with, but as a parent, we don’t always see the whole picture. The instinct to protect in the moment can cause us to forget to keep our eye on the prize.
You may be wondering how this ties into the UCLA basketball players stealing. Well, here it is. Those men made an individual choice. It was their personal decision. It wasn’t the coach’s fault, it wasn’t their parent’s fault. It was an individual decision, whether impulsive or pre-meditated, where adults chose to do something and they got caught.
But my guess is, at some point, something happened in the lives of these basketball players that gave them the confidence they would get away with stealing. Perhaps they have gotten away with it before. Maybe they have acted without integrity and been defended.
Because these men are college athletes the vast majority of the public is willing to blame the coaches for allowing this to happen. But they forget, in their 18-22 years of life, the first 18 have been lived without the influence of the coaching staff they now play under.
Parents, we have to join our coaches at every level in developing athletes who are more than good players.
- When your child’s coach asks more of them back the coach up.
- If you have a question ask the coach about it directly.
- See past your ego and keep your eye on the prize.
- Allow your child to engage with authority other than you.
When my sons were toddlers I could get them to go to sleep quicker than anyone else because I knew exactly how they felt safest. I knew the routine. But as my sons have gotten older they have had to take on the responsibility of going to sleep on their own. I can remind them, but they are the ones that need to make the decision to do what is healthiest for their bodies. As they get older the more people who remind them what it looks like to be healthy the more inclined they are to comply.
Together will always develop the highest quality person and athlete. We may not discourage every stupid decision an adult will make, but we can help them develop a stronger framework for discernment when we keep our eye on the prize and work together.