What does it take to change a sport?
To change the way people do things or think?
For athletes to have permission to be real and be honest?
What will it take for club sports and parents and universities to train whole athletes?
I’ve had this vision and passion since I graduated college that was intensified in my graduate program to train athletes beyond their sport. To train them physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. To train them to be elite athletes and elite human beings. To be people of character.
I believe in sports as an amazing avenue for a child to set goals, learn to advocate for themselves and to learn character, but somewhere something goes wrong. Somewhere along the way our kids and our athletes become their sport.
I’m no different. I became volleyball. I became my sport. And when it was all said and done, the transition to normal life was rough. Oh, I’ve got stories.
I know, don’t feel sorry for me. I got a full-ride and played at a Division-I school. I set records, I broke records, I still hold records. I got a degree. I played professional ball. Do you know the percentage of hopefuls that do that? It’s less than 10% across the board and some sports are less than 1% (this study shows more).
I’m one of the lucky ones. Right?
Sure, you could say that.
But look around.
Our gyms and sand courts and baseball fields and football turfs and mini-soccer teams and basketball courts are filled with wide-eyed kids and greedy parents (not you, or course) looking for the next big thing in sports. We park our rears on our fold-out chairs and watch while our kids do what they do, while we sit on our keister’s and take in the hopes and dreams we have for our kids.
It’s good for them, we say.
Then we joke about the NBA or the NFL or MLB or Team USA. We’re only kidding. Well, kinda. Wouldn’t that be cool? Trust me, I hear ya.
Right now my kids are little. I have purposefully kept them from team sports until they come begging me. And why would I do that when I had such a wonderful experience as a student-athlete? Why would I keep them from the very thing that gave me purpose and direction and a healthy outlet? Because I’m not ready for you guys.
I’m not ready for the parents. I’m not ready to compete with you and have to shield my kids from you. I’m not ready to drive them all over kingdom come so they can have an overuse injury by the time they are fourteen.
I want to train their character before I train them as athletes.
I want them to be whole athletes.
Tonight my son told me he didn’t want to try piano. I said “you need to do piano before you try the drums” (he’s been bugging me about drum lessons). He told me he didn’t want to do drums anymore that he only needed to throw footballs because you don’t need piano in the NFL.
Playing in the NFL is not something we have ever encouraged him to do for a living – even though I love me some college football #godawgs.
Innocent fan, right?
Not when it came marching up into my house and crawled into bed with my seven year-old last night. You better believe there was a long discussion about why “NFL” isn’t a college degree. I told him he wasn’t going anywhere until he finished 1st grade – oh, we’re not done yet. I don’t know if he’ll play college football, let alone flag football, but right now I am concerned with his character. I’m concerned with his heart and his motives and his actions. Who he is. What he stands for.
I teach him this now because, I wasn’t a whole athlete. I want him to do and be better than I was.
See, I was a good volleyball player, but I was kind of a disaster.
I was a jerk. I was mean. I was a bully. I didn’t make the best decisions back then and I didn’t have the resources to deal with the pressure of growing up and keeping a full schedule of classes, practice, training and rehab. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who experienced this, but we all just did it because it was expected of us. We had a huge support system in place for us as athletes, but when it came to boys or stress or anxiety or team dynamics – well, most of that we worked out on our own. At least I know, I did.
Gosh. I learned so much from my time there, but I also had a lot of pain that had nothing to do with volleyball.
We expect our athletes to perform as seamlessly off the court as they do on the court and most of the time there is a big disconnect.
I know I’m not alone. Any time I speak to a former student-athlete we all know that we know that we know. Now it’s just time to do something about it.
Let’s train whole athletes. Who’s with me?