Seth Godin wrote a manifesto called Stop Stealing Dreams: What is School For? and it was shared millions of times. He spoke at TedxYouth about the future of education, how we reward kids, and what we can do better. Both posts are worth diving into.
I love athletics. I know this doesn’t surprise you 🙂
So many life lessons.
It’s a shame more kids don’t get the chance to experience them.
My competitive streak still comes out when I’m running and have to catch that guy in front of me, when I’m sprinting down the soccer field and just can’t get there quite as easily as before, or when my children play the long-standing rival.
With age, sore knees, and raising children, perspective grows. When your child plays, there’s an opportunity to reflect on the point of it all.
Growing up I accepted the “cuts,” the “sorry, you’re not good enoughs,” the “varsity players vs. the junior varsity players” because, well, I didn’t get cut. (I considered it a shame math class didn’t make cuts.)
Until one day I did get cut. I was 15 and willing to quit track to wear a Westside cheerleading uniform. Rejection was a phone call. “Sorry, you didn’t make it.” As I sat gloomily in the kitchen, I imagined my try-out buddy getting picked up by all the popular senior cheerleaders and celebrated with vaseline in her hair, marker on their face, and other humiliations. Lucky!
My mother considers this a blessing.
I was cut again in college. The list was posted outside the cross-country coach’s door after a grueling run on a freezing cold Idaho morning before the sun was even up. No conversation, just my name missing from the posted list.
That was TWENTY YEARS ago this fall and I can still feel the sting. I can still smell the cold Idaho air and the faint whiff of cow. I can still see the stars that twinkled on that morning. I can still remember what I prayed for…God, please let me run fast, please let me make this team. Please help me run my best.
This is the stuff that stays with you.
Alas, not everyone can play or run on a college level, but by that time I could scrape my dreams off the Idaho track and keep going.
But for the kid who gets cut too early? That’s stealing dreams.
That’s also not to say there shouldn’t be tiers.
But for every kid who wants to play, let them play.
This fall, Cope tried out for the girls varsity team soccer team. She was so scared she almost bailed. I pushed. Don’t not do it because you’re scared. That’s something you’ll always regret.
After a week of a grueling two-a-day preseason, her name was on the list. “I can’t believe I made it,” she said, dazed. She’s young. She acknowledges she has to work on her ball handling.
You know why she made the team? The coach rewarded her preseason “hustle.”
Life lesson = guts matter. Grit trumps talent. Hard works = dreams come true.
I weep. I thank my lucky stars for such a coach.
(you wouldn’t believe how much begging I had to do for Cope to let me post this pic:)
Mentorship, compassion, kindness, love, courage, resilience
Life lessons right there on the soccer field
This year was a life-changing year. All summer he worked his tail off. He was obsessed with the world cup and Messi, watched his Youtube soccer videos, read about “the greatest soccer player in the world,” inspired that Messi is only 5’7.”
He practiced and practiced and practiced. He was never without a soccer ball. Okay, he did sleep. Once.
He started playing with me at summer soccer. Gerry, a boy’s varsity soccer captain went out of his way to make my boy feel good about his game. Free, life-changing mentorship.
In one summer my Nellie Mak was a tremendously better player, impacting the start of his eighth grade year. He had momentum. His confidence blossomed. He became a leader.
In our little town, at our little middle school, we don’t make cuts. And even though it creates some logistical headaches, everyone plays no matter the skill level.
But there are thousands of kids just like my son that get cut from their school team. So sad.
Did we have the best year ever? Yep.
Do I want to keep all of these kids? YES. A million times yes.Because if there is one thing I’ve learned as a teacher and a coach, it’s this: human beings are remarkable. They’re ability will constantly surprise you.
For kids, athletics starts out as fun. But coaches are fired because they don’t “win.”
What are sports for?
What if we approached athletics as a learning environment, where attitude and effort counted as much as height and natural strength?
Seth Godin says, “When you’re six years old and you try out for the hockey team, only two things are going to get you picked ahead of the others: either you’re older (it’s true, check this out) or you were born with size or speed or some other advantage that wasn’t your choice.”
A seventh grader recently told me, “Adults say that winning doesn’t matter, but that’s always the first thing they ask – did you win?”
As a coach, I always try to remember: soccer is so great because it’s so FUN. Because it’s hard. Because it requires so much mental and physical effort. Because you get to play with a TEAM – those that are better than you and those you are better than. You get to make plays, learn to do the Maradona – you get to kick something! How FUN is that?
Some of my kids who I thought just weren’t very good last year showed up this year and they suddenly KNEW HOW TO PLAY SOCCER. All that dreaming over the summer, brain development, growing and kicking and running and world cup analysis. Coordination improved, dribbling clicked, bones, muscles, balance, the ability to see the field, anticipation – all of these things take time.
If I had cut them last year?
“What if we celebrated the students who regularly try the hardest, help each other the most and lead? What if we fast tracked those students, and made it clear to anyone else willing to adopt those attitudes that they could be celebrated too?”
As a side bonus for coaching, you’ll get to ride THE BUS! Forget the field, this is really how you get to know a kid. I would tell you about “secret circle,” but sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy. Anyway, you probably don’t want to know.Our last game season was a friendly match-up on the turf, under the lights. It was the culmination of a near-perfect season. Lucky, lucky us – TURF! Screaming fans! All our dreams came true!Here’s my Brynnie-the-Pooh. She loves the game so much she laughs when she dribbles. Soccer makes stars shine in her eyes Perhaps you’ve heard me mention a few times how much I love this game? And this guy. He just happened to come walking across my camera lens!The youngest roams during all these game. I hope she loves soccer some day, too. Right now she’s soft, sweet, and easily wounded. She could go either way. It depends on what kind of experience she has at an early age. I hope it’s a good one. Please don’t steal her dreams.
Recently Julia wrote of the origin of the word “compete.” We often connect compete with battle. Beat, destroy, annihilate, kill.
It really means:
compete: verb from Latin competere to seek together, from Latin com- + petere to come together, agree, to go to
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we saw team sports that way? Seek together. You’re right, Julia, that sounds so much better than “attack.”