What If I Were Cody Parkey's Mother?

football-fieldIn my house, I've been talking a lot about resiliency and how to handle life when things aren't going as planned. Life for teens isn't easy. The world is such that our high schoolers and college students feel incredible pressure, a lot of it self-induced by trying to be "the best" and never make any mistakes.

That pressure is real, and it's showing up in statistics all over the country regarding the state of young people's mental health and in increased suicides and suicide attempts.

Self-destructive thinking is hard enough. But what if millions of people were angry at your kid for one critical mistake?

It seems nothing else Parkey has done can make up for this one significant failure.

This player will go down in history with being the cause of the Bears 2018-19 season-ending defeat.

Sports experts are all weighing in on what happened - it was just unbelievable to see - and the looks on the other Bears players as it happened - the mascot literally falling down on the ground in the background as the football hit the upright, and the fans...oh, the fans.

Some people are feeling sorry for Parkey. Most are not.

One sports commentator said "I don't feel sorry for him. Look, he had one job to do..."

Now Parkey is getting threats, he is the butt of jokes, and he is a pariah in the sports world.

I cannot imagine having a child who would have to endure this. Yes, I perfectly understand how incredibly disappointing this miss was. I know how fans and players had high hopes for the Bears this season, and that no one could have expected this to happen.

Parkey will have to muster the kind of resiliency most of us will never have to face in our lives to get through this.

I understand the gravity of it, but really - this guy isn't a criminal. He just made a really bad kick. He was off. Probably incredibly nervous knowing the pressure to make a successful kick.

If Cody were my kid,  I'd just surround him with love. He needs to be accountable for his job, but the guy needs love from those closest to him.

His job now is to pick himself up and see where the next opportunity takes him. What will that mean for football? I don't know.

But I can tell you, for as much as America can nail you to a wall, we like a good comeback story too.

Maybe that comeback won't be in football - Cody has an opportunity to be a role model for a lot of young people who will do the same thing in any game or sports meet. Or in a recital, or a musical. Or an important test. Or a kid who totals a car. Or loses their scholarship.

Some of us will "fail" more greatly than others or suffer awful setbacks. This article, "The 25 Most Astounding Athletic Career Comebacks" profiles athletes who've had to overcome cancer and other illnesses, serious injuries, deep poverty, etc. and made it back anyway. And pretty close to that arena is "19 Celebrities Who Made Victorious Career Comebacks." I mean, Martha Stewart was IN JAIL for crying out loud! The jokes abounded when it first happened - but who really thinks about this now? She just published her 94th book - another success - and still has a presence in television, in products, etc. It's almost as though the worst thing imaginable for your business career never happened for her. But it did. And I bet she learned a lot from the circumstance.

Much of what I'm reading for changing mindsets and focusing on what's mentally healthy for young people (and people of all ages, frankly) sounds like common sense. But in the moment when emotions are running high, these common sense thoughts can be easily forgotten.

And it seems that it's human nature to be more negative than positive for most people.

Mental Strong Habits

Mentally Strong Habits

Just like physical exercise, we need to remain on a regimen of successful thinking and eliminate what's bad for us. Amy Morin writes in her books about what mentally strong people DON'T do. Why the emphasis on what they DON'T do? Because one critical area of ensuring you can focus on what you want to do is to be very conscious of what you do not want to do - doing things that are negative without even being conscious of it sabotages our best efforts, and by leaving negative things behind, you give yourself greater ability to focus on what you CAN do.

Morin gives the example of creating and keeping a great exercise program - but if you eat "junk" food to "reward" yourself, you're actually undoing all of the good. Hence, the idea of dropping what's bad for us so that we can better experience the good things we're doing.

If I were Parkey's mom, I'd focus on reminding him about the following points from this chart:

  1. Don't waste time feeling sorry for yourself - self-pity is destructive and creates feelings of negativity and induces anxiety and depression - replace it with gratitude.
  2. Maintain a strong grip on personal power - it's hard to believe, but we only lose our power when we give it away to others. The critics will abound; the time will come when this missed kick isn't worth talking about anymore.
  3. Don't shy away from change - could this circumstance ruin Parkey's football career? It's possible. What else could he do with his life that will make a positive impact on others - and for himself - if football doesn't prove feasible?
  4. Don't focus on things that can't be controlled - the kick was missed. People are angry. Instead, Parkey needs to focus on what's next for himself.
  5. Don't worry about pleasing everyone - if ever there was a situation that fit this pearl of wisdom, this is it. Parkey will need to figure out what his own priorities are, and not worry about others that detract from the next good things he wants to do.
  6. Don't spend time dwelling on the past - this doesn't solve anything and can lead to depression. Move forward.
  7. Don't make the same mistakes over and over - well, there will be some who argue that Parkey was having issues hitting uprights and didn't correct his kick. There's no time like the present to correct mistakes and ensure they don't continue.
  8. Don't resent others' successes - no one will ever be content if they keep comparing themselves to others - even if they are successful in their own right, comparison breeds feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and even depression.
  9. Don't give up after the first failure - athletes have to learn to face failure; anyone doing anything significant faces the chance of facing greater failure than those who just "play it safe." It is the person who faces obstacles and overcomes them who shows greater personal strength and is more admirable than the person who is afraid of failure and just cruises through life.
  10. They don't feel the world owes them anything - the next steps are for Parkey to move on without entitlement - truly great people rely on others for advice and support, but embrace the work that needs to be done to get where they want to be.

Imagining myself as Cody's mother, I could have said that I'd say lots of lovey mother things, a-la Bev Goldberg from the TV show "The Goldbergs" (whom I love, by the way). You know "You're the best kicker in the world! Don't listen to those idiots!"

But using facts and information is more effective, and looking at other sources who provide insights to boost up what we already know deep in our hearts and minds about ourselves builds on success instead of wallowing in failure.

I really hope to see some good things come from Cody Parkey. I for one, am rooting for him.

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