Our goal at Gymfinity is two-fold. We want kids to realize that they can exceed their own potential regardless of the topic and we want them to feel success.
In regards to potential, we have to first identify what the child feels that they can accomplish and then we have to convince them that with effort and dedication they can exceed what they thought they were their limits. Notice the 2 factors of effort and dedication. These are things that the greater percentage of children has little to do with. We have convinced children that they don’t have to try hard all the time, that we will reward participation the same as winning. So the kids who try hard and may fail in the light of great attempts are ranked lower than an athlete that half-steps it and just shows up. We have prioritized mediocrity and in the same breath complain about lackluster children. Dedication too is not something we, as a generation of parents, have worked hard to instill in our children. We tell them when they are unhappy that we will change heaven and earth to make them happy again. We teach them that when the going gets tough it’s ok to get going and then we’ll make it easier for them. This, as the kids say, is a “FAIL” on us.
Effort is certainly to be rewarded. I cannot tell you how many coaches I have spoken to that share the same story. I’ll hear. “That’s my gymnast Carley (name’s made up) she’s got talent dripping off of her but she doesn’t work hard. Over there is Darcy and she’s not the most talented but she works her butt off.” And here’s the part that’s always the same: I would take 5 Carley for 1 Darcy. Coaches appreciate effort and would prefer it over lazy talent. Our directive though is to help the Darcys get skills and to motivate the Carleys to work as hard as the Darcys. Granted, and you probably beat me to the punch, there are coaches out there who are all about winning and don’t really give two hoots for the Darcys of the world. They focus on Carley and their programs show it, unhappy, un-motivated, disrespectful champions; sad in my book.
Dedication is another quality that we don’t find often. We find it, I have very dedicated kids that I love like they are my own children, but we don’t find it often. In our sport, to be good, you usually have to start very young. Not always, I said “usually”. As kids grow their parents often want them to leave the sport to try other things. Often it’s not a matter of “do you want to try other things?” It’s a matter of “go try, see if you like it.” I am for this in most instances; but in many cases these same parents cannot figure out why other children progress past their child or why their child is now finding this sport so difficult. It’s because they are spread too thin Dad! They’re children and if they are happy doing one thing, and doing it well, reward that and be grateful they found their happiness. If they want to look around and spread out their energy then accept the conceptual reality of “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
The third factor and aspect of our Gymfinity goals is to have each child experience success. The difficulty then is “what is success? You may remember the story of a parent from another gym who became visibly upset with me when she accused me of not inviting her daughter’s team to our meet because I was afraid they would beat us. She was almost apoplectic when I said “That’s not a worry, my team never loses.” The meaning of my statement, aside from the entertainment value of watching that lady’s head turn purple, was that we have defined success as learning from errors and doing the best we can in the situation we are in. My teams know that if they trained hard, gave it their best effort and still scored low then there is still a chance to succeed by evaluating what can be better done next time. They never lose.
There is an old Buddhist saying that “first you shoot your arrow and then call what you hit the target.” I’ve always loved this because it guarantees success. With learning and effort as the arrow, we shoot and accept the consequences as the target. I was so pleased to hear Olympic coach Bruce Burnett share the same thoughts on how he trains his own children and his athletes.
I really appreciated this because Burnett has “seen the mountain top” so to speak. Taking athletes to the highest level of competition and still placing the value on the journey. It makes me happy to see that my philosophy is carried by coaches at all levels. The olden days of jack-booted coaches berating and embarrassing children into performance is fading and maybe, a new generation of coach, a new generation of athlete is rising. People who believe that hard work is its own reward, dedication and perseverance are the ways to success and the value is in found the journey not the prize are becoming more prevalent. Yeah, I know. But I can dream can’t I?