Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Why the drill sergeant mentality with kids HAS to stop
I want to use this blog to encourage any parent who's second guessing the tactics of their child's coach/trainer to know, that your gut is right. It is wrong, and it shouldn't happen.
A child walks into my program for the first time not too long ago. He's young, vulnerable, and is more into Minecraft video games then he is into sports and fitness. But he has a great spirit about him and just wants to play. So my mind just can't wrap around the fact that his parent was just telling me about the horrible experience this 8 yr old had at another local gym. Forced to do sprints back and forth on the turf, yelled at when he messed up, and overall leaving much more discouraged by what he can't do, then encouraged by what he can.
I hear stories like this all the time.
The questions I have is: WHY?
And what the heck is wrong with adults?
I want to first start with giving some adults the benefit of the doubt. Some mean well, some just don't know any better. But let's go back to being a kid again and REMEMBER.
Kids are not grown-ups.
Their bodies aren't like ours yet, and more importantly, their minds and emotional intelligence aren't either. They don't have the same knowledge and experience as we do. They don't cope and manage the same way we do. We don't even learn what mental toughness really means until we are close to 30's, and even still, some adults will never know. It doesn't do any justice to try to make our kids mentally tough by screaming at them, making them run extra sprints because they messed up in a game, and forcing them to do push-ups as a form of punishment.
They are not soldiers.
Get your finger out of kid's faces, change your tone and use of words, get your mean red face off, and make sure you understand these 3 points:
1. Up until 14-15 yrs old, kids are not ready for any crazy intense type of workout or practice.
They want to play. They want to have fun. They want to know that they are getting better and can master certain things. Our job is to make sure they MOVE WELL. Our job is to make sure they learn skills. Our job is to make sure they have FUN and LOVE the game. We can do this without running a boot camp operation. If we don't do it, then what's going to happen? They're eventually going to quit. Come senior year, they're burned out and done because "it's just not fun anymore." I have some fantastic college athletes who are choosing to do intramural sports over collegiate athletics because they don't want the stress and the more serious then it needs to be headache of nazi coaches.
2. Even if they do respond well, it's out of fear.
Now, even when kids are physically able to up the intensity, discipline, and protocols, you can still do it in a positive and encouraging way. The art of coaching requires you to be able to build motivation from within and allow kids to take ownership over what they're doing. You don't have to force them to do anything, you have to stop them because of their love to get better. Insulting, punishing, discouraging, won't do anything but deflate kids. Even if it does work at first, it's out of fear. Kids will do things because they're scared of your reaction. That's not the type of motivation we want to instill in human beings, it's temporary and it won't last.
When I played baseball and it started to get to the serious little league age of eighth grade, I had a coach tell me he wanted to "kick my ass." Yea, because that made me want to play better or something. All I could think about the rest of the all-star season was if he said it again I was going to use my famous wrestling peek-out to take him down and choke out his beer bellying, dip chewing, bald-heading you know what. You can probably understand why I didn't care when I quit the team and never played baseball at that level again.
Some kids may be able to handle it, but I have found that most will shut down. They will lose confidence and their performance will plummet. All are results that you never want for any child.
3. There's a way to discipline and push kids to the next level, in a healthy way.
So let's flip this track. Let's say kids know that Coach Theo has their back. They know that if they mess up it's ok, because that's life. They know that I believe in them and that they can get 1% better every day and that as long as they strive to do just that, and try their best, then I'm going to be proud of them no matter what the scoreboard says. Tell me that won't motivate the heck out of them to play their heart out.
"Johnny, it's ok you missed that tackle. Get back up and try _____ next time."
"Lucy, I love how you just did that. I bet if you add a little change up like ______ to it, you'll feel even better."
"Ryan, you're not listening very well right now. I know you had a rough day at school, you can do it. Focus a little more and pay attention for :60 more seconds and then you're on your way."
"Jenny, don't get frustrated about your push-ups. Let me see you do this for now and I bet you'll be doing 10 with great form before you know it."
Your words do matter. And I encourage us all to make sure we choose and use them wisely.
You can be firm, you can be assertive, but you can be positive. Running your premier travel league team like they're at the marine barracks because you think it's going to get them to the NFL, or NBA, or MLB, isn't necessary or in my opinion, beneficial for any youth mind.
I know guys that are very strict but they are extremely uplifting and it's a tough form of love that promotes not demotes. In this blog I'm talking about the people that make you shake your head. You know these butt heads, and again know, that they are detrimental.
If you have kids working with or playing for any coach that is like this, really contemplate if it's worth it. I'm not sure I'll keep my kids playing or training with anybody that is negative because I know the affect it can have on their confidence and development. I will question and explore with them always to see if it's affecting them or if they can ignore it and do their thing no matter what.
I say to the coach who tries to tell my kid to do 100 push-ups and 300 yards of bear crawls and 500 laps around the track, make sure you can do it first.
And if you can't....
Then rethink what you're asking.
It may just be an absolute game-changer.
It's not about us,