The Coach Speaks Out!

The Coach Speaks Out
with Mike Lushington

    In everything that we do, we reflect something of our own values in life. It doesn't matter who we are, how old we are, or what our "station in life" is; our actions, or nonactions, demonstrate how we view life and what we consider to be important.

    If the foregoing is self-evident (as I think it to be), then I think that those of us who are concerned with sport, and with active living, have to realize that our approach to promoting these values has to include an open discussion on the essential role of a positive self-image.

    I have spent a good part of a lifetime working with young people - as a high school teacher, a drama director, and athletic coach. Time and time again, I have found that those kids who are most successful in their endeavours are those who are willing to take risks, to try new things even though they know that, at first, they will not do them well and will be subject to teasing and even ridicule from others around them. Those who are willing to take these challenges know that initial, and even repeated, failure has nothing to do with their essential worth and that eventual success will outweigh initial failure and its ephemeral embarrassments. This willingness, in turn, is based on a simple fact: these kids have a positive awareness of their own worth. Unfortunately, such young people are rare - much rarer than we might think.

    Most young people (and a great many older ones as well) conduct their lives according to values that they believe are held by the "significant others" in their lives - their friends and peers. It is not acceptable to be different, to stand out, to achieve where others may not. Thus, they are governed by the "least common denominator" in their particular group. In a perverse, but very pervasive way, the ones who can do least often control the agenda because the more gifted do not want to appear to be so because, in turn, they do not wish to offend. Interestingly, a couple of recent research projects have determined that those kids who are outsiders, the "nerds" or "freaks" of society often turn out to have the easier road to success in later life, simply because they have had to develop self-reliance, and the positive self-image that accompanies it.

    One of the great challenges for coaches, teachers, and others who work with kids, is to find ways to allow them to develop a positive self-image. I firmly believe that if we are going to address such emerging problems as chronic inactivity, intellectual and physical failure in school and on the playing fields, and problems with weight in our young people, we have to begin by finding ways for these kids to like themselves, to value self-pride and to develop the sense of success that comes from accepting and overcoming challenges.

    On another note entirely, this will be my last column for awhile. I have decided to take off the summer - should we ever get one - and to recharge my own batteries. As it stands right now, I would like to start up again in the fall, should there be sufficient interest out there.


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