The hardest part about being a coach, if you ask some of the coaches who’ve been around the game awhile, is that you never forget that you also used to be a player. You know what it’s like to be the person you’re now in charge of leading. Or at least you think you do.
The same is true for being a parent. You’ve been a kid. You know what they’re going through. You know what it’s like to be them. Or at least you think you do.
Maybe that’s the problem. In both cases, the game has changed. Of course, there is something timeless about childhood, but the truth is that every generation grows up in its own context, with its own unique problems and opportunities. To paraphrase Heraclitus, we all enter the river of life at the same point—the beginning—but the waters that flow there will always be different for everyone.
Maybe we need to approach this job like a coach whose playing days are long past. We played basketball before the shot clock was introduced, before hand-checking was prohibited, before the three-point revolution. We played football before the spearing rule, before the spread offense, before custom fitted helmets. We played baseball back when players flew commercial, had to change planes, and get jobs in the off season. Although there are lots of different coaching styles that work, there is nothing less effective than an old school coach whose ego and need for control limits their proverbial field of vision and makes everyone around them miserable in the process.
Yes, the basics of the game remain the same and the purpose hasn’t changed. It’s you and 4 or 8 or 10 other people lined up across from a team made up of the same numbers, trying to score more points than them before the clock runs out.
But that’s about it. Everything else has changed. The way the game is played. How players are paid, treated, trained. What is required of them, and what is required of their coaches. Now, replace player with child and coach with parent.
So let’s have some humility. Let’s have some empathy. Let’s be flexible. Let’s be willing to learn. Let’s use our experiences as kids and players, bristling against the rigid orthodoxy of our out of touch parents and coaches, to help our team learn. To help our family learn and grow and be better.
We can’t try to fit them into our framework. We can’t demand that they believe they’re standing in the same water we stood in, even if they’re looking downstream at the same bends in the river that we saw when we were standing in that spot. We’ve got to understand that theirs is a different world than ours, and then we’ve got to figure out how to fit our wisdom into a framework that they’ll understand.
The game has changed and we have to change with it…or it will pass us by.