“Prepare the athlete for the path, not the path for the athlete.”
A husband, father, and principal (same individual) shared this thought with me last week, “Prepare the athlete for the path, not the path for the athlete.” I left that meeting thinking deeply about this concept as it resonated with me.
When it comes to preparing our students for the 21st century I think it is very important to watch our own game film on how we are doing as parents, coaches, and role models. Are we doing the hard work training our athletes for the path? Or are we doing the hard work for our athletes so they can breeze down the path with little friction or fight for the accomplishment?
Often times I see high school parents going to coaches and teachers trying to solve issues on behalf of their sons and daughters who are in their own right young men and women. Michael Broyles wrote “The reality is that you will not always be there to pave the way for your child, fix things, argue with coaches etc. Kids will grow into adults and experience grumpy co-workers and mean bosses. Constantly insulating kids from difficult situations and consistently cleaning up the mess defeats the purpose of sport. Sport is about learning to succeed and to fail, not just to succeed. Sports should primarily provide life lessons. If the life lesson learned from sport is that Mom and Dad can and will fix everything, later life will be difficult. If the lesson is that school is something you have to do but sports are what is really important than, be prepared for some really big problems down the road.”
When it comes to coaching I have seen the exact opposite as the pendulum swings too far the other way. When coaches transact with athletes and the athlete fails to accomplish the task or execute the play many coaches move on to the next player with out preparing the failing athlete with the necessary feedback for success. As coaches let’s rewind our week. How did we do in preparing our athletes for the path? Did we coach the aged old saying “If you fail once… try and try again.” Or did we coach… “If you fail ,oh well… Next athlete up?” You see when we coach transactionally we prepare paths and not athletes. We teach and foster a culture that defines athletes based only on their performance. We need to coach transformationally and prepare athletes for the path. All our athletes need to understand that their value is not based on their performance, but rather their value is based on whose they are as a member of a team whose pursuit is the greater good of the team rather then the greater good of an individual. When we worry less about “who we are” and focus on “whose we are,” teams thrive.
As role models (parents, coaches, team captains, team leaders) are we modeling perfection... which is not reality but rather a mask to hide our failures? As a role model it should be the goal of all of us to model great responses to failures and great responses to success. “Remember the purpose of sport is to teach athletes about success and about failure. The failure lessons are often more important than the successes.” When we succeed give thanks and be grateful to the team who helped you achieve your goals and when we fail let’s be honest, learn, and grow from this path that is helping to shape us into a leader who is more enamored with goodness than greatness.
“The next time you make a decision involving your athlete’s sport or sports, ask yourself “Am I preparing the athlete for the path or the path for the athlete. This simple step will help guide your decision making every time.”