Ever since I was a kid I was told that I spoke like an adult. This observation has always confused me, but now that I am more of an adult it is making a little more sense. The more I interact with young kids, high schoolers and collegiate athletes the more I realize how most lack conviction and authority when they speak. The young kids I get, they have no reason or experience to have conviction or authority, but the young adults in high school and college, for the most part, lack those attributes when speaking.
This kills me as a coach and youth officials trainer. For every team I coach the only major thing I demand is that they are loud at practice and in games. It takes me a week or two, but I can generally get any player at any age to get louder than they were when they started. You can’t be timid or quiet on a lacrosse field and expect to get anywhere. My big problem is many of the players coming into lacrosse have spent most of their lives being told to pipe down. When they finally get the opportunity to speak up, they don’t know how.
I will let Taylor Mali, a fantastic poet, make his point about the importance of conviction and authority:
I don’t find it surprising that people consistently rank public speaking as a greater fear than death. Humans are social creatures and the fear of embarrassing ourselves in front of our peers or strangers can be downright terrifying. What I don’t get is why we let kids off the hook about how they talk. I took a public speaking class in middle school, and one teaching technique got rid of every student saying “um”. The teacher had one of us stand in front of the class and would hand us an index card with a topic on it. We never knew what the topic was, and that was the point. We had ten seconds to think about the topic and then we had to speak for five minutes on that topic.
Once the five minute clock started we had to talk continuously, but anytime we uttered “um”, “like”, and “you know” the teacher squirted us in the face with cold water from the spray bottle he held. I once had to speak about fermenting grapes into wine. I had no clue about how to ferment grapes and I got sprayed with water for the full five minutes. By the end of the school year most of us had gotten proficient at removing “um”, “like”, and “you know” from our public speaking vocabulary, but the interesting side effect was those phrases dropped out of our normal conversations as well.
I spend season after season teaching youth officials and youth players how to speak because no one teaches them how to find their own voice. And if they never learn to speak strongly with their own voice they will stand quietly on the field and watch those who can pass them by.