School year 2018/19 is right around the corner (let the collective sighs of anguish begin ha ha), but personally I’m excited because my organization will begin its third season of producing a web series that documents the scholar-athlete experience. On the field and off, we capture the myriad emotional undulations of scholar athletes and the stakeholders involved in their journeys.
The calendar has turned to August, a time when fall athletes, their family members, and friends often ratchet up discussions about the upcoming campaign. Lord knows we’ve heard these conversations before. Will you start or how much playing time do you think you’ll get? But I believe sometimes these discussions veer off-track so I want to put this plea out now to everyone involved. Stop worrying so much about results and focus on values.
In my opinion, we’ve become too accustomed to talking to our youth scholar-athletes about the numbers: how many goals or touchdowns do they want to score, how many first place finishes, or what kind of playing time do they think they will get.
These questions are understandable to a degree, and I often hear them thrown around my own circle of family and friends. The more I think about them, however, these questions are superficial and often figments of our views on what constitutes success and positive experiences. Moreover, these questions can deceive an impressionable youth-aged scholar-athlete into believing the positivity of his or her experience will be based solely on stats, playing time, and notoriety. Wrong!
Very few of our sons, daughters, nieces, or nephews will ever play sports in college (recreational level not withstanding), thus, conversations about stats and playing time, etc., are borderline wasteful and makes me wonder: are we projecting our own ideas of success on to our young people?
As stakeholders we need to be sure we are discussing the value of being value-driven to our youth. I’m talking about playing because they love the game or the competition. I’m talking about learning how to be a good teammate. I’m talking about becoming someone who genuinely celebrates the success of teammates just as much as they do their own. I’m talking about learning how to accept failure and success with equal levels of poise, professionalism, and grace. These types of questions speak to their values and we should be talking to our young scholar-athletes about this.
I’m not naïve, I understand the value of an athletic scholarship and I also understand no one likes to lose an athletic competition. I cringe, however, when I see athletes who smile and give interviews after performing well statically, but throw helmets and brood when they don’t. It pains me when a family allows a high school athlete to transfer from school to school to find more playing time, as if the throughway to success should always be easy and void of obstacles.
I know many stakeholders are speaking the proper language to their young person, but for those who aren’t, lets refocus and get back to proper messaging. Worry more about your values than you do your results, and the results will often take care of themselves. More importantly, your mood and character won’t waiver depending on wins, losses, or stats. It’s a soft skill that will pay dividends in the locker room and in life.
David Owens is Owner of Visionary Media Productions, and an Adjunct Professor at Loyola Maryland University. He is also a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and served six years active duty in the United States Navy.