I have had numerous conversations with parents, coaches, and teachers about the generation of young people we are raising today. I often hear comments about their lack of concern for others, how they only think of themselves, their lack of team-play, or how they are downright selfish. How quickly we forget.
It was actually the Baby Boomers who were first dubbed the “Me Generation” and that has spawned a series of decades where many feel as if those traits have gotten progressively worse. Maybe they have, in some ways, but as they say (whoever “they” are), “the more things change – the more they stay the same.”
Forever, haven’t children been asking adults, “Why?...Why?...Why?...?” Sometimes I think our recall is short and we “mis-remember” the way things were in our generation. I think somewhere deep down inside most everyone throughout the ages has been the question, “What’s in it for me?”
I’m reminded of one of my favorite scenes from the movie “Field of Dreams” when Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) says, “I did it all. I listened to the voices, I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what's in it for me.” Shoeless Joe Jackson then asks him, “What are you saying, Ray?” To which Kinsella replies. “I'm saying, what's in it for me?”
I’ll admit there was a time when "because I said so” or “it’s my way or highway" may have been an accepted answer by more individuals, but I think even they deserved more. Why not tell them why? Why not explain the benefits of the request (or order)? This type of communication will get a quicker buy-in, far greater commitment, and is a much better leadership method.
When people know “why”, when they know how it really benefits them, they will initially be more apt to execute the plan. This is the first step in the journey. Over time you can build Trust among the group. Players learn to trust the coaches, trust their teammates – and coaches learn to trust the players. Most importantly, after much work and repeated success, everyone learns to trust in themselves.
I’m reminded of a story documented from one of my favorite seasons ever shortly after being hired as the Head Coach at my high school alma mater.
Students pass it every day, most without a thought.
But for John Haywood, the trophy case inside Bishop Amat High School's Tate Duff Gymnasium provided special motivation this season.
It happened one afternoon last June. Boys basketball coach Ray Lokar and his senior standout had a conversation as they glanced into the trophy case at the retired uniforms. None belonged to a Lancer boys basketball player.
"You know how you get yours up there?" Lokar asked Haywood.
"Set some records?" Haywood responded.
"No," Lokar answered. "You have to be Player of the Year, and that usually goes to the MVP of the team that wins a (CIF-Southern Section) championship."
A few moments passed before a big smile appeared on Haywood's face. Several months later that smile grew bigger after Haywood led his team to the Division III-AA title. For his efforts, Haywood is the Tribune's boys basketball Player of the Year.
"On that day, he realized it's not individual records that bring recognition," Lokar said. "It's team success. If he had the same stats but was on a team that wasn't as successful, he wouldn't receive the same recognition."
On that day, John Haywood, the unquestionable best player on a very good team, understood that it was to his benefit to do everything in his power to make sure his team, and teammates, were as successful as possible. If he did that, he too would realize a much greater level of success – and ultimately, recognition. THAT is what was in it for him.
When players know there is a tangible benefit you can get the ball rolling. At that point, players may see that their teammates deserve their best. Clearly, they want their teammates to give them their best, so it follows there should be a reciprocal effort. As this pattern continues it develops the understanding that “WE” is greater than “me”.
This process is a journey, often with many detours and pitfalls, towards developing a generation that “Does the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.” Not because there is a reward if they do or a consequence if they don’t - simply because they should.
It would be a great world if we could get to the place where every player approaches every day with the attitude,
"Teach me coach I want to learn. Please correct me so I can improve"
Eventually we may be able to get players to set high standards for themselves and then just ... "Do You". But no matter how selfless an individual may be, I’m convinced there is always that instinctive feeling in the back of their mind, “What’s in it for me?” “Why?...Why?...Why?...” I’m not sure there is any way to stop that from, at least periodically, sneaking into our players’ consciousness.
Recently I’ve taken to pointing out to players how good it really feels to “Do The Right Thing”.
When you do the right thing there is a far greater chance your going to have greater success at whatever you’re trying to do. It feels good to do well. When you do well, not only do you feel good, but others do too. Coach praises you and that “Fills Your Emotional Tank”. When you do well, your parents are proud and fans, in general, are in a more festive mood. That feels good. For the most part, when a player does well they avoid the “Parental PGA” (Post-Game Analysis) and I know that feels good.
Is there anyone that remembers the saying during the original “Me Generation”
“If it feels good - do it”?
Maybe they were talking about doing the right thing. That’s right, doing the right thing might be the most selfish, self-serving act of all. Why? Because it makes you feel good!
Wouldn’t many people say the relentless pursuit of self-satisfaction is a selfish act? But isn’t that what “intrinsic” motivation really is? Not an external reward, but an internal feeling. Just. For. ME! Selfish? Absolutely not ! Actually, quite the opposite.
Maybe one of the most selfless individuals in the history of the coaching profession, John Wooden, outlined success in the best way possible with his Pyramid of Success and he defined success as:
"Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."
I want each and every player of mine to Do The Right Thing, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because at the end of the day It Feels Good to do so for everyone involved and it provides the Self-Satisfaction necessary for them to achieve that Peace of Mind that gives them the feeling of Success. That’s What’s In It For You.