While it’s really popular to lament the fact that youth sports isn’t what most people wish it to be, the truth is that by wanting to “change the game” we actually do more harm than good. Here’s why.
When it comes to your sport only the elite of the elite athletes are ever able to truly get the game to change. These are the athletes who are so far advanced physically, technically and tactically that rules need to be changed or else they blow right through them. To be honest we haven’t seen games change much over the years with the exception of the sport of golf where tee boxes had to be moved back to make courses longer to make it challenging for todays golf-athletes.
For everyone else (athletes and parents included) all discussion of changing the game is usually in an effort to help sub-par athletes succeed or at least feel like they are succeeding. (Participation trophies, anyone?)
In today’s episode let’s talk about How You Can’t Change The Game and why you shouldn’t even be asking if you truly want to be great at your sport.
You Can’t Change The Game Transcript:
Hey there, Olympian, Jonathan Edwards here, and welcome to another Athlete Specific podcast. I hope you enjoyed last week’s Issue which was on More is Not a Plan. I always appreciate the comments and I got a lot of emails from people who enjoyed it. This week I want to talk about how You Can’t Change the Game. It’s pretty popular now that there’s this kind of understanding or this kind of ‘feels good,’ ‘it’s sentimental,’ but it’s the idea that we’ve got to change the game. Listen, the game’s not going to change and what I mean by that is I understand people talk about changing the game and about everything around your sport. It doesn’t matter what the sport but people try to change like how crazy it’s gotten and how it’s like adults forcing things on kids and how it all needs to change.
Stop Disempowering The Athlete
Here’s the thing. If you’re discussing changing the game, then you are taking all of the empowerment out of the athlete. Because the truth is, the game the game. The game has rules. The game has been around for a long time. It doesn’t matter what your game is… whether it’s soccer, hockey, lacrosse, football, skiing, biathlon, sheep wrestling.. It doesn’t matter.
The Game Is The Game
The Game is the Game. It has it’s own rules. So what is our responsibility as an athlete or the people who support an athlete? It’s that we need to help that athlete become the best they can be to withstand the challenges or take advantage of the opportunities in that game. OK? What I mean by that, is that an athlete has the ability or lack of ability to basically survive in a game and we need our athletes to focus on those things, to look for feedback, understand what it is they need to improve, and then go out and improve those things. When we start to blame things like the game, or the Coaches or the Referees, or just the overall environment, what the athlete says is “Hey, not my fault! Right? If all these things changed, I’d be better.” And a lot of parents perpetuate that. They say ‘well, if all this stuff changes, or if that Coach wasn’t there, or those rules weren’t like that, or if it was this, this, this, and this, then my athlete would be better.’ I don’t necessarily disagree but it doesn’t help to sit back and wait.
A lot of times these changes that people are looking to see in organizations or structures of organizations are not going to change anytime soon. And so waiting for them to change is really disempowering your athlete. When if we just focused and said “Listen, this is the way it is and this is what we need to basically make it happen” It’s like complaining about the weather. To be honest, you can either look outside and go ‘you now, it’s raining, God, I hate the rain, I wish it would stop raining, I wish that cloud would move.’ Or you could put on a raincoat, grab an umbrella and go out and enjoy the day. Right?
Our Society Would Rather Complain Than Change
But we are a society that would rather complain than change. It’s easier to complain and hope that everything around you changes than to actually change. But for an athlete to survive in a sport, they need to develop the abilities to thrive no matter what the situation, and that includes coaches, and other parents and organizations. If you want to succeed, you gotta stop talking about getting the game to change and focus on what does the athlete need to do to overcome whatever the obstacles are in the way of the athlete.
What Have You Been Focusing On?
So, think about this for a little bit. What are some of the things that you’ve been focusing on…that you’ve been wanting to change, wish to change, but really if you just focused on something else like something inside of you to survive that you would then thrive within your sport. I would not have become an Olympian, or an All-American if I had just waited for things to change. I needed to basically just figure out what I needed to work on. And I’d like to say this, as a goalie in pretty much every sport I ever played and an Olympian in a timed event, all I really needed, all I really wanted was to know what I really needed to work on to be better, to be faster, to be a better goalie, less goals in the net. Whatever it was I would do because those were the things that would get me forward. Things like ‘I wish that guy didn’t shoot so hard.’ or ‘I wish that guy had a legal stick’. Legal stick, illegal stick, it doesn’t matter. I still needed to stop the ball. Okay? And that’s what you need to do.
Parents and Coaches Need To Focus Too
Alright, so if you are a parent or a Coach watching this, do me a favor, stop complaining about all these things outside of the control of the athlete and just focus on what the athlete needs to do in order to achieve and get better. The best coaches, the best parents, help their athlete focus on what it is that they can control and improve those things and from there that athlete is stronger and able then to succeed.
“If you’re discussing changing the game, then you are taking all of the empowerment out of the athlete and the parents and coaches who support that athlete.”
“We need to help that athlete become the best they can be to withstand the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities in that game gives them.”
“When we start to blame things like the game, or the Coaches or the Referees, or just the overall environment, what the athlete says is “Hey, not my fault! Right? If all these things changed, I’d be better.”
“You can either look outside and go ‘It’s raining. God, I hate the rain, I wish it would stop raining, I wish that cloud would move.’ Or you could put on a raincoat, grab an umbrella and go out and enjoy the day. What’s your choice?”
“Stop complaining about all these things outside of the control of the athlete and just focus on what the athlete needs to do in order to achieve and get better. “