A few months ago, I sat and watched the NFL Hall of Fame speeches. I'm not usually one that enjoys, let alone pays attention to this type of thing, but the Hall of Fame speeches are always a bit different. I'm continually struck at the hardship of childhood for almost all these legends. Growing up hungry, bounced around, poor, lacking in almost every area of life. Single parent households, witnessing struggles in a harsh environment. I think this probably describes 70% of the speeches. They will let you know what it was to overcome that. Someone reached out to help, wether parent, family member, or coach. They gave them an outlet of sport for a grasp of hope for a better future.
But how much did the environment have with shaping the grit and drive to succeed? No one will ever argue those athletes were born with supreme physical talent. But, no one will also argue that there are more supremely talented athletes that never make it or never come close to the level of success they should have achieved. No one will argue that those athletes that make it to the top work extremely hard at their craft. But again, their comes almost an obsession with being great. Is this a product of the environment?
It's a question that probably can't be answered. Because, there are athletes that succeed that are in all intents and purpose from a "soft" or privileged life. It still bears to question though, how to create the best environment for success from an athletes development as well as parents perspective on raising kids.
One of the books I just read through was called the Gold Mine Effect. An author travels and discovers the hot beds for athletic talent. Sprinters from Jamaica, endurance runners from Kenya and Ethiopia, tennis players from Russia and women golfers from South Korea. What he finds is a culture of extreme hard work in an environment that suggests no matter how hard sport is, life is that much harder.
The former track coach for some of the Jamaican Sprinters is named Stephen Francis. He, even after great success, still kept his training MVP group fairly low budget. Performance centers were not glamorous on purpose. He wanted athletes that wanted to be there because of their desire to succeed. Not to be coddled with the latest and greatest. Here is talking about his personal opinion that an athletes should be 80% uncomfortable.
As a parent there is a concern and great trepidation of raising a "spoiled" child. My definition of spoiled is wanting with out working. Success without failure. Attainment with out gratitude.
As a parent it is fun to be able to take your kids to places you may not have gone as a kid yourself. It is fun to go out to eat. Fun to buy them presents or shoes that they like. Fun to have experiences with them. Where does fun go from just that, to crossing into entitlement or even worse killing whatever drive they have to achieve themselves. When creating performance culture or family, how much do we allow the athlete or child to be given, how much do we let them struggle?
Life is perhaps best when it follows what we know about skill acquisition. We know that with the development of new skills, to easy brings boredom, to hard brings frustration. Both produce quitting. The sweet spot of difficult but doable is where the brain stays engaged, we lose track of time and we immerse in the problem. We develop interest, but we also learn, learning. "I can figure this out."
When I first opened my clinic I saw daily levator scapulae issues. It took months of scapula reading to figure out the best way to treat it and keep it from coming back. (Treating the levator is almost never the answer) I told someone what I learned. They said cool, it worked for them when they did it. While I condensed what I learned in a paragraph for that person, they didn't get the months of reading and insight I gained from studying the problem. I got better, they got and answer to a problem.
My own views currently is that it's the job of the coach, therapist, parent to guide the person, show them the end goal, but let them figure out how to get there. Don't take away the struggle, the earning of the goal. Perhaps this way, the achiever learns that nothing is given. They don't "deserve" it. No false wins. False wins, produce eventually failure. Failure they have not learned to handle.
Another idea, I've been playing with in my head is that perhaps everything should be periodized, not just training. A very smart trainer opened my eyes to perhaps there is no "right way" to eat. Periodize all the carbs, fats, proteins, kept, low carb etc...should also be periodized. So Periodize periods of tough times, with periods of easy times. Not quite sure how that plays out with kids, but like I said, it's my thoughts at this point.
The grandfather builds it, the son make it a success, the grandson ruins it. It is a popular saying for a reason. The son found the flow, not to hard, not to easy. The grandson had everything to easy and as result, failure.
Lets help them find flow and find success.