“Be a yardstick of QUALITY. Some people aren’t used to an environment where EXCELLENCE is expected.” – Steve Jobs
The other day Josh’s soccer team had a parents meeting. His new team is pretty hard core and the intensity is only increasing as we ramp up to the summer outdoor season. The coach is trying a new thing, where he is taking a larger pool of kids to make the team, but not all will play in every game (as opposed to previous teams where the roster was chosen at the beginning of the season and the kids just then played every game).
With his new format, in order to play in the game, you have to basically “earn it.” Earning it will be based on skill, effort, attitude, attendance etc. If you don’t “make” it for that week, you still get to play, but you don’t play on the “top” team (A team), you will play on the B team. You do also have the chance to be “so impressive” that you can be guaranteed a spot for the whole month on the A team.
You can imagine the uproar that this caused.
Here are some of the things parents said:
“They are only 11 – 12, this will cause lots of anxiety every week”
“They will feel like weekly failures”
“It’s better that my son only has to deal with the stress and anxiety when he has to make the team, but once he makes it, I want him to be able to relax and enjoy himself a little bit”
“My son puts in 100% effort all the time! If he doesn’t make it, then that’s not fair!”
There were such mixed reactions to these comments, but I actually really liked what they coach had to say.
He felt that rather than making a bunch of cuts at the beginning of the season, he was giving kids the chance to work on their game throughout the season. He understood the anxiety issues, but emphasized that the coaches, as well as the parents, need to help the kids cope with the anxiety, encourage them to give it their all and identify areas that they can do better the next time. And it’s not like playing on the B team is a bad thing!! He suggested if anxiety was the concern, then he’d happily place your kid on the B team and then you don’t have to worry about anxiety (no on took him up on that offer though – which shows that some parents may be the ones more concerned of the prestige of being on A vs B).
The comment about “wanting to relax once you make the team”…. yeah, this is why he’s doing this. That’s the attitude of too many kids (and parents). I made it, I can sit back and enjoy the ride.
The comment about the 100% effort, I nearly choked when the Mom said it. In my head I was thinking: “Really? Your kid is at 100% all the time???? Wow. What’s your secret? My kids aren’t like that. I’m not like that!!! It’s impossible to be 100% all the time!” But, you can certainly aim for it. The other sad reality is that sometimes even giving 100% does not make things fair. I think back to not long ago where Rob gave 150% for a job he wanted, and guess what? He didn’t get it. It’s not fair. But it’s life.
The whole argument that these kids are only 11-12 — I sort of get. I mean, I feel that way too. Please, don’t be so harsh. He’s my baby. I don’t want him to deal with these realities right now. I don’t want him exposed to too much failure or anxiety. Adulthood is hard enough, let’s let them be kids.
BUT. Having an almost 17 year old? Um, let’s let them start dealing with some harder stuff earlier on, because it actually only gets harder. You can’t protect them. Consequences do get bigger.
What this coach is pushing for is EXCELLENCE. He wants them to give it their all, all the time. Is this hard to do? YES! But just because something is hard to do doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aiming for it.
I know in our home, Rob and I are concerned about our kids putting in good effort. We are concerned that our kids take pride in their work. We want them to have a gut check when they don’t do well on a test, or do lousy on an assignment. We want them to walk away from a game asking what they could do better. I don’t want their teacher letting them off the hook for late assignments or unsatisfactory work. I want them to KNOW and acknowledge when they have given it their all – and when they haven’t (because, let’s face it, we – even our little kids – know when we have given it our all).We want them to raise the bar of their expectations and not settle for mediocrity.
Yes, striving for excellence is a lot of pressure. But I do think it builds a character ready to face the big, dark scary world. But, I’m not just the cheerleader on the sidelines telling my kids how great they are, “rah,rah,rah”. I can do that too – BUT my most important job is to coach them, and sometimes that requires me pushing for excellence and raising that bar a little bit higher.
EXCELLENCE. That’s what we are aiming for. And if we don’t make it? We’re still landing in a pretty good place.