June 30, 2016

Sports are like life: Encouragement works; yelling does not

By Jack Smith

This has everything to do with mental health and nothing to do with mental health. Publishing here because several folks asked me to. 

I posted this on Facebook last night after an experience with little league baseball.
Sports are a lot like life. The battles we learn to fight there may help us when we face far more imposing opponents, like disappointment, loss or mental illness. 

We can all use good coaches to help us through the hard times.
Couple observations about youth sports and coaches.

1. Encouragement works. Yelling does not. (Watch elite coaches who've won National Championships up close and personal and you'll learn this lesson).

2. Children have good memories. So don't tell them one thing before the game and another after a loss. That's called hypocrisy. Kids may not know how to spell it but they know how to smell it. From left field.

3. Respect must be earned. Not demanded.

4. Kids don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. About them. Not the game you are trying to win to prop up your own ego.

5. It's not possible to be objective about your own children. So guard against that blind spot. Everyone else sees it from 10 miles away.

6. If you didn't achieve all your goals as a player two decades ago, your kid won't, either. They are your goals, not his. So let it go.

7. Kids will only have passion for the sport if they love the game, not because you do. You can't force passion. Let them find their own passion, whether it's baseball or bowling, reading or playing guitar.

8. Consistency isn't key. It's critical. Inconsistency undermines credibility and erodes trust.

9. Idiot parents are ruining youth sports and often times their own kids. That's why coaches with positive attitudes who encourage and motivate matter more than ever. And can be more effective than ever. Many kids are starved for encouragement.

10. Body language matters. Watch Dr. Cuddy's YouTube video. She teaches at Harvard. You probably don't.

11. All kids learn differently. Their personalities and learning styles matter. Yours does not.

12. Leave your ego at the door, or it just might cause you to embarrass yourself at the ballpark. And your kid.

13. If you cheat in 12-year-old baseball or coach with a win-at-all cost mentality, you better believe your kid thinks it's okay to cheat in life and use people for selfish gain. And the essence of sports and the timeless life lessons they can teach us is lost. How sad.

14. Last but not least: The purpose of sport is to teach us about life. And overcoming adversity. And the importance of putting others ahead of ourselves. If coaches don't do that, there is no way in the world kids will.