STAYING IN THE GAME
By: H. Reed Emsick, Uvolv Senior Analyst
Frank Emsick, CEO & Founder of Uvolv
Parents and adults responsible for the educational and physical development of youth frequently ask them “What do you want to be or do when you grow up?”. Often the response to this question goes something like “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure”. AND, if you really want to throw water on the conversation, when they say a coach or teacher, tell them that they cannot make any money at that.
The question can serve as a conversation starter but it can quickly become a communication barrier when it causes them to feel frustrated and insecure because they cannot speak clearly about their future for themselves that you approve of. Still, it is an important question because, if you are to help them, you need to know their goals, self-expectations, feelings and concerns.
Yes, discussing the future can be a delicate topic but it is a very important to do so. However, be prepared to adjust to sudden and frequently dramatic shifts in the dreams and aspirations of your youth. You must be able to step back for a moment and take a deep breath and listen with an open mind about the choices made. If choir is leaning on their heart, volleyball might not be as much fun as it once was. If I make no other point in this article please know this… All the money you invested in club volleyball is not going to go to waste. Making a choice like this is a big step in a person’s maturity. How many people do you know that did not have the courage to make this sort of decision. Instead of quitting they have chosen to take a huge personal risk and they need to know that you have their back. If you do not do so, you could quickly fall to the “spectator” status in their lives instead of a contributor and valued mentor for their growth and development.
AUTHOR NOTE: Yes, I agree, hundreds of “if’s” and “maybe’s” are not covered by the above paragraph, but rather than get lost in the weeds with the thousands of possible exceptions please consider that a major role of the parent, mentor or coach is to validate the person’s inner self. You must help them learn to like themselves. To do so, requires that you leave no doubt in their mind that you personally value and care about them and when change is imminent it might be a good time to just listen and understand and offer your support.
I doubt that there are any extremely successful truly “self-made” individuals. The fire in the lives of the world’s most successful people is always fueled by someone else supporting them. Often celebrities facing a national TV audience say, “hi mom”. The parents and mentors of these individuals did not have any magic but they did, I am certain, set the “RIGHT EXPECTATIONS” and provide the support needed when the going was difficult.
In my studies of successful high school athletic programs one of the student athlete’s perception that consistently characterized the most successful programs was that students felt their opinions were heard and respected by parents, coaches and especially their teammates. Here again I repeat, if you are going to be more than a spectator in your child’s life, you need to know and respect your child’s perceptions and feelings.
It is truly rare for youth and many late adolescents to clearly know the future life they hope to create for themselves. Those that do have a deep burning inside of them guiding them are very fortunate and are often years ahead of their peers.
Helping a child select an extracurricular activity is challenging but it is important to approach the decision as a process rather than an event. The appropriate age is dependent on the individual and their family’s circumstances. It is important to make it an enjoyable learning and developmental aspect of growing up and becoming a responsible successful adult. Remember always, the key to success is discovering what that person is good at. The next step is to get them into situations where they can do a lot of the activity that they enjoy. Complications will always involve aspects of non-strengths. This is where coaching, parents and others will have their greatest challenge. (I will share some thoughts about coaching non-strengths in future articles.)
Where and when to begin:
I don’t believe it is ever too early to begin. If they like to catch a ball, sing or blow a whistle nurture the yearning. Most children just naturally exercise their physical and mental talents and it is important that they have opportunities do this. Of course, there will be times when they exercise their yearning inappropriately or at inappropriate times. When this happens, it is important to employ corrective actions that ensure they understand how and when it is appropriate to act in a certain way but do the very best you can to avoid embarrassing or humiliating them. It could be the expression of an important gift and it just feels good to do it.
Think about this:
When he was very young, much has been written about Michael Jordan spending hours bouncing the basketball in his grandmother’s basement. I’ve heard coaches express that he must have been very disciplined to do that. Perhaps he was. On the other hand, it could have been because it just felt good to do it and he felt good about himself when he was doing it. Long hours of hard disciplined practice? Maybe he was just fascinated with what he could do and thoroughly enjoyed doing it. If his grandmother had made him stop because she could not stand the noise or belittled him because that is all he wanted to do, would Michael Jordan have become the great player he is? No one knows the answer for sure but, I am sure of this, no one gets there on their own. Someone, usually many, must invest in the person in the right way if a person’s talent is to be fully actualized.
Uvolv will be a platform that can guide and assist parents with helping their children make the right decisions of which extracurricular activities their youth should participate in given their strengths and weaknesses. Of course, academics come first but participation in organizations such as band, choir, football, soccer, student council etc. is important to a child evolving into who they want to become in the future. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr for more information about this exciting new website. Uvolv will launch in January 2018.