If your kids are playing a sport this fall (and you’ll be watching them), here are some things to remember. If you’ll be coaching, I’ve got some ideas there too.
What if we’re really growing apart?
Weekly, I’m amazed by technology and our ability to connect instantaneously wherever we are. But I wonder if that’s what’s really happening – the connecting.
There’s a wonderful (and frightening) book called The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis). It’s a compilation of letters from one devil to another – a mentoring devil to a junior devil. It’s dizzying what it’ll do to your thinking because everything seems to be in reverse. If you want to push your brain, it’s worth your time.
So… What if it were true? If there was an evil force in the world, what would be its primary work?
It would attack love, wouldn’t it? And love is care. And wouldn’t one of the most evil ways to do that be to help us slip into a twilight state of sleep and indifference but at the same time make us feel as though we’re active and connecting with one another?
“Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it ‘real life’ and don’t let him ask what he means by ‘real’.”
C.S. Lewis (1942)
from The Screwtape Letters
Okay, my band of evilness, here’s an idea…
Let’s make it so easy for people to connect that they focus on the quantity of connections rather than the quality of those connections… Devolve the meaning of friend. Devolution. Mmmmm.
Let’s give them some tools that allow them to find each other wherever they may be and let’s encourage them to be obsessed with those tools. So efficient. Wait… And then maybe they can keep track of those friends… In front of each other… Yes, a contest of sorts. So proud.
Let’s help them push human interaction to their fingers rather than their faces… Oh, so nice… Quicker less thoughtful communication eroding their ability to communicate at all, perhaps? Could it be that they may even shy away from talking completely?
Yes quicker, less thoughtful, less meaningful.
All along, they’ll feel like they’re making more connections but in reality, they’ll be growing apart… Becoming less able to connect in reality. Conversations will become acronyms. Discussions will become monologues and homologues. Listening, reflection, and thought… Pffft. Rush. Rush. Rush.
Oh… To have them care more about telling their story than living their story… How wonderfully terrible that would be.
(Let’s be careful.)
“The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.”
David Foster Wallace
Those words are from Wallace’s commencement speech given in 2005. The entire text is one of the most moving (and inspiring) things I’ve ever read (especially knowing that Wallace ultimately lost his internal war with depression). It’s about 3000 words — maybe a 15-minute read.
I can’t tell you who spoke at my college graduation. Nothing against them, I’m sure it was me. Had Wallace been our speaker and given the same talk, I probably would have missed it because of my attitude at the time. (I wonder how many of those students heard and thought about what Wallace said that day.)
We have just over 3 million college degrees being given out this year in the U.S. I’m assuming (hoping) that the largest portion of them will start working and contributing to the needs of our world (people). I hope they’re Smovers.
At the same time, I hope we (the grown-ups?) remember to encourage them to do what’s right, work hard, and care. They’ll need it (though they might not want it) and it’s our job as grown-ups.
Below are my 3 favorite commencement speeches. Pass one or all of them along to someone who’s graduating (this year or 3 years from now). Help them become more aware… earlier. Make sure you read them first (you might find Wallace’s to be too harsh). Then be sure to follow up. Sit down and ask them what they think. Then listen. Then have a conversation.
This Is Water : David Foster Wallace, Writer
Find What You Love : Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. Cofounder
The Love of Learning : David McCullough, Writer and lecturer
I stand in your front yard…
judging the way you act toward your spouse.
judging the way you parent your children.
judging the way you use your time.
judging the way you use your money.
telling others about the bad things you do.
I stand in your front yard…
wishing I hadn’t.
I’ve been coaching recreational kid’s soccer for about 10 years. For the last 5 years or so, I’ve had a couple teams each season. I still make my share of mistakes (attitude mistakes and coaching errors) but I’ve got some thoughts for parents of kids under the age of 16 (this is for rec ball). It might work for parents of older kids but I don’t have personal experience with that yet. I’m guessing these might apply to other sports too.
During the game…
- Say nothing unless it’s completely positive. Your players don’t need remarks of disappointment while they’re working. “What are you doooooing, Bobby?” is not positive.
- Let the coach guide the players. In the heat of the match, a kid is going to have a tough time figuring out who to listen to (and it’s not you).
- Remember you chose the recreational league because your player probably isn’t the next Beckham (or you didn’t want to invest all that time and money). S/he might be, but then you’d be in a travel or an advanced league and this advice wouldn’t be for you (although if you’re in a travel league, feel free to ratchet back your anger and intensity if you feel it coming on… it’s not a great example to set and it fuels the bad attitudes and sportsmanship we’re increasingly seeing on the fields).
- Enjoy that your child is trying, competing, and getting a solid workout.
After the game… Reinforce the importance of effort and acknowledge any bright spots. If there were any bad attitude moments (for your player), ask if they think they could have done anything better during the game and then listen without giving advice. If you had any bad attitude moments, apologize (it sets a good example).
If you’re a new rec coach (or a coach who hasn’t had a great deal of success – define that how you’d like) and you’re interested, here’s what’s worked for me…
Imagine the world without ego.
More kindness. Less pain. More done.
“I profoundly believe that the power of food has a primal place in our homes that binds us to the best bits of life.”
A great 20 minutes from Jaime Oliver at TED this year (probably a good one for your kids to watch too – 12 and up).
I completely love the accent. It’s brilliant. Isn’t it?
Speaking of dining… Can I give you 3 ideas that have had a great impact in our house?