When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to have parents that believed in using sports to help teach me life lessons the only way that sports could. Overcoming adversity, being part of a team, winning respectfully and losing humbly, and putting the team ahead of your individual goals were all lessons I learned that helped shape me into the man that I am today.
Unfortunately, my generation and the current generation of athletes couldn’t be any more different.
And if you’re curious what “my generation” is — I graduate high school in 2001.
Playing sports literally changed my life and left such a mark on me that I decided that I wanted to “payback” all of the lessons I’ve learned by becoming a coach. I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to instill some of those same life lessons that I learned playing high school sports to the thousands of kids I’ve coached in the past 11 years. However, I quickly came to realize that the kids I was coaching had a very different mindset then what I had when I was their age.
This generation of athletes are being raised in a “me first” society that places individual accomplishment over team success. Society doesn’t want kids to go through failure so the participation ribbon has completely destroyed teaching kids that losing is unacceptable because even kids that lose still get a ribbon for their “effort.” So if everyone gets a trophy or ribbon, why work hard?
I could continue to write another 3,000 words on the reasons this has happened (*cough parenting *cough) and the dangers that it presents but I think I’d just be beating a dead horse.
Furthermore, it doesn’t help that kids today are looking up to athletes that are more concerned with the name on the back of the jersey than they are with the name on the front. The athletes I looked up to (Jordan, Bird, Walter Payton, Sandberg, etc.) were some of the most competitive, yet selfless, athletes of their time. They played hurt, sick, and tired because they knew their teammates were relying on them to help the team win. Today’s role models will “rest” when they are completely healthy, get carried off the court from cramps, and flop around like a dead fish when they are barely touched (you know who you are.)
Times have changed. Professional sports have become more about the brand then about the game. Endorsements, huge contracts, and money have become the driving force behind most of the athletes that kids look up to today so the value of a “team first” has slowly been fading away.
Then a guy like Kris Bryant bursts on the scene and completely destroys that mentality.