Whether demonstrated through government policies, or just interwoven through our current American culture as a whole, there seems to be a certain sense of entitlement that's developed, gaining a little more strength as each decade passes. It is an attitude that consistently questions what it is others can, and/or should, be doing for us, rather than what we should be doing for ourselves - an approach that designates us as controller of our own destiny.
It has even permeated our educational system where the current buzz word of the day centers around "intervention," meaning what is the system (school), and/or teacher, is doing to make "me" better.
Yes, of course, there is a great deal of responsibility that does, and should, automatically come with schooling, teaching, and yes, coaching, but the scale certainly has sure become more and more lopsided and unbalanced.
This is no less apparent than in our sports environment where many are looking for something outside themselves in order to create an edge for success, even if the choice they make to gain that edge is unethical, cheating, carries unnecessary risk, or is illegal.
However, through my years as high school teacher and coach, I have come to the conclusion that a mindset opposite of the one depicted above tends to be much more successful and rewarding. That when an athlete takes on more responsibility themselves for the things they would like to achieve, the more control they have over the possibility of accomplishing what they want. It is this type of attitude that helps to create opportunity others don't seem to grasp.
The strong foundation for my view on this concept, something directly relative to the title of this piece, grew largely out of a life-changing event where the direction of my life took a distinct "right hand" turn. More accurately, my life gained some direction based on a very inspirational experience I had as an athlete in high school. It is what I learned through that experience (an epiphany of sorts), in combination with my educational, teaching, and coaching background, that has helped to create my focus from the "athlete's perspective."
It is commonly understood that when children are younger, their parents, coaches, teachers and other adults in their life play a very important, or essential, role in creating a healthy developmental environment. The choices we make and parameters we set, at the younger ages, help determine the foundations from which they make their own decisions and set their own parameters. (At least that is our hope).
However, there comes a point in time when children become adolescents and young adults, full of their own desire to assert their own uniqueness. It is during this time that adult influence seems to have much less impact. That is not to say that creating a healthy environment is not still of high priority and importance, or that still setting appropriate parameters is any less significant, just that a definite shift of assertiveness to making one's own decisions and choices takes place in those pre-teen and teen years.
This is no less true for kids involved in sports, and, in essence, it is the choices the young athlete makes themselves (on their own) that will become the essential piece to whether they gain the intrinsic values available through their sports experiences and/or achieve a solid understanding of what "true" success is really all about.
In other words, no matter how good a parent, coach, or program is, it will be the choices that the individual athlete makes that will determine the successfulness of that individual athlete.
It is not that the guiding influences mentioned earlier are of little importance, "actually, many people contribute to the success of any sport or athletic activity, whether it is a team or individual sport. So, of course, coaching, parental support and good programs are important factors. But it needs to be said more loudly and clearly that the importance of these factors is still secondary to the role young athletes themselves must play in creating their own success." (Excerpt from Becoming a True Champion.)
It is for this reason, in addition to the experiences I have had involving my own athletic, coaching, and teaching career and watching my own two daughters struggle through the adversity of their athletic careers (from youth through college) that I have centered my energy and focus on the perspective of the athlete. And not only for the purpose of helping the athlete better understand their role and responsibility in their own athletic success but also, and just as important, to help others better understand this perspective so as to aid in supporting personal ownership for this in athletes.
This brings me to my next piece (article) where I will discuss in more detail the idea of personal ownership and responsibility in creating success and why it is so important to the success of athletes. Stay tuned to this blog for Personal Ownership and Responsibility (Part I & Part II).
It should be a good read.