I remember the cartoon we had on our refrigerator when I was a kid. It was of two archaeologists with pith helmets and all looking at a little nub sticking out of the ground in a desert scene. The one archaeologist walking away says over his shoulder to the other “yeah, it’s probably nuthin.” But in a cut away below the ground we see a huge skeleton of a dinosaur: a skeleton that will never be found, at least not by these guys. I learned from it that the things we can see are usually only a small fraction of what is real or what is possible.
I have always been a believer that our job is to get our athletes to 1. See their potential, 2. Reach for their potential and 3. Surpass their potential, and I have always understood that every child, every athlete, is different. If children can first identify what they are capable of and then work toward attaining and besting it, we have succeeded.
The struggle, as I see it, has two faces. The first is that parents want their children to have smooth and easy lives. They make decisions for their kids, do the work for them, and try to level the hilly paths that sometimes make life difficult. They fear that the uphill sections of the road of life may be too overwhelming and they work to make it all flat. They don’t see that flattening lowers both sides of the hill , the uphill struggles and the downhill coasts that make life fun and thrilling. These children have no chance to struggle but also have no opportunity to fly. They never learn to problem solve, work to get ahead or to envision what earned success can feel like. It’s a disservice we give our children.
The other side of it is that children on their own don’t dream enough. Kids need to think of things that are fantastic and ridiculous and we should encourage it (ask me about my son’s “heated surgical glove idea). Children come up with wonderful ideas and adults shoot them down. We tell them that it won’t work, or someone has already done that. But we should be leaving the door open to creativity. We need to show them that “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known, you just have to dream big enough to discover it.” If we let children dream they will create a vision of tomorrow that, with a little effort could be something that changes the world, even more than heated gloves (if that’s possible).
As I said, my job at Gymfinity, as a coach is the same job as teachers in schools and parents in homes: to help children to define the potential, reach their potential and pass their potential. That is after all how growth happens. The part I want to point out is that we need to allow them input on the definition of their capabilities. I have had many gymnasts come in and feel that they have the potential to go to the Olympics. What’s wrong with that? Maybe as time goes on each has redefined their goals and aspirations but if even for a short time, why can’t they be headed toward the Olympic games? After all imagination is having the vision to see what is just below the surface – to picture that which is possible, but invisible to the eye. Isn’t that what being a kid is all about?