I think the featured image for this post is hysterical. My family’s three dogs, Thor, Nugget, and Zeus from left to right, believe they are stuck in the kitchen. You’ll notice a barely perceptible metal fence going from one wall to the edge of the kitchen counter. This fence weights half a pound and is about three feet tall, but to my three dogs it is more impenetrable than the Bellagio vault that the Ocean’s Eleven team broke into.
I remember being a young kid and wondering why everything was so hard. When I look back on how I reacted to tough times I see that the obstacles I had to overcome as a child were not nearly as bad as I made them out to be.
The most difficult obstacle I had to overcome before I turned eighteen was failing French junior year. I didn’t put in the work and by mid-terms I had a big fat “F” staring back at me along with a meeting with my class dean. I had zero reasons for failing French. My home life was good and I did not have too many extra curricular activities taking up my time. I just thought that French wasn’t worth studying, and I wasn’t very good at it to begin with. My French teacher and my class dean begged to differ. They informed me that if I didn’t pull up my grades I definitely wouldn’t be playing lacrosse and I would likely be repeating my junior year.
The older I get the more I believe in the motto “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome“. I knew that I had zero motivation to become fluent in French, but I had a lot of reasons to pass. With the exception of HTML code, languages do not come easily to me, but I am pretty good at memorizing. So I adapted to this obstacle that I created and started studying French vocabulary. While I did horribly on the audio portions of our weekly tests, I started acing the vocabulary recall sections. Eventually those scores averaged out and by the end of my junior year I had a “B-” in French. Even though I still cannot speak a lick of French, I managed to overcome my obstacle that I thought was insurmountable, but it turned out to be completely doable.
There is no growth without adversity. There is no advancement without failure. There is no success without obstacles.
How shallow would success be if you decided you wanted to get somewhere and then you were suddenly there without any work in between?
I received my third stripe on my white belt when I was sixteen years old after a year of training jiu-jitsu. In front of the whole class my instructor asked me how I got my third stripe. I said, “You gave it to me Sifu.” He sternly replied, “I didn’t give you anything, you earned that stripe.” That one sentence changed my perspective on everything. When I received my blue belt a year later my instructor asked me how I got my blue belt. I replied, “I earned it,” and he nodded sagely. I earned it by committing my time, my energy, my sweat, and even a little bit of my blood to pursue a goal that meant something to me.
I believe that it is our job as adults in youth sports to present young kids with adversity, with failure, and with obstacles. We give them those three challenges in a controlled setting and then slowly prod them to grow, to advance, and to earn the level of success that they want to reach. If we do that our young adults will come to see that the obstacles they will face every day of their lives are not so insurmountable. If we don’t, then our young adults will spend their lives stuck in the kitchen like my three dogs, wondering why they can’t get past what is right in front of them.