Este artigo foi originalmente escrito e publicado em inglês, na plataforma LinkedIn Pulse, em 13.11.2019; e abaixo o texto original:
BUILDING MINDFUL LEADERSHIP IN SPORTS TAKES A CHAMPION
What are we producing in today’s youth sports and out of them?
This is a question I have asked myself way too often lately when talking about youth sports, parents’ engagement and leadership for life. I also realized I am not the only one questioning this.
In a recent article written by Robert Glaze and published as part of his Elevate LinkedIn Newsletter series, entitled: “Do you have a great athlete or a great kid? Here it is why it maters” he states that “[…] too many parents have gone from being spirited spectators to being overly and vicariously invested in their children’s athletic endeavors and achievements. This includes aggressively coaching from the sidelines during the game and antagonistically engaging with referees (many of whom are kids) and other parents. All this behavior does is create a fear of failure.”
Let them play is a powerful and liberating statement that I, personally, advocate for in terms of leadership vs. sideline coaching vs. parenting overly engagement behaviors, in today’s world of sports. I deeply trust we all should follow through ethical lines and basic social leadership skills in order to allow young players to thrive in their lives and upcoming careers. There is a book by Jerry Lynch named “Let Them Play: The Mindful Way to Parent Kids for Fun and Success in Sports” that I suggest for those who want to further their understanding on this matter.
Now, what I want to share with you in the next lines is that for these past months I attended not only one mandatory education athletics program in my kids’ School, in South Florida, but I am also becoming increasingly more involved with leadership and sports as a volunteer, sport’s parent, and professional in the global leadership training industry. Please understand that all I share here in this piece reflects my personal view only, and not necessarily the views of any organization (academically or not) that I volunteer (or work for, or with).
First of all, I was thrilled to learn that in the United States alone, most organizations (in academics and non-profit, sports related) require parents, providers, including coaches and volunteers, all involved with junior sports, to attend some kind of mandatory programs that are designed to support children’s growth, and foster sports and leadership within a safe, productive and sound environment.
Developing virtue and good leadership skills, as well as positive attitude through sports, is a choice we all can make as parents of children and first educators in today’s environment. We all know champions are made, not necessarily born! But the crucial question here is: Are we really producing champions inside and outside of our communities? Are we creating champions for life?
In my family, for instance, sports have always been a part of our mental, spiritual and physical development. It always went side by side with our studies, being a part of our education system, and I am so grateful for that. I – myself – played tennis and was involved in horseback riding competitions in Brazil since my early childhood. Now, sports continue to be a part of my life in so many ways. To date, I have my two kids as junior athletes in tennis, and a whole world out there for them to experience and live as they choose to. Of course my husband and I (as so many of you with your junior athletes) support them on becoming better human-beings above all else, and for that alone, I am so pleased. Winning-at-any-cost-mindset is a philosophy that totally disagrees with our own beliefs. And this is serious business.
Let me explain this better. Being a professional leadership mentor and coach, specialized in mental skills training for leaders and working with cross-cultural sports and leadership programs, certainly puts me in the spotlight as a role model not only for my kids, my colleagues and friends, but also for those I work with and for. This brings me to the fact that we all – at some point in time – must choose to live as a role model in our lives (or not at all). Choice is always ours! Then, the next questions come: Are you really role modeling as a champion in your own life? How are you supporting your beliefs, your way of life, and of course, your athletes’ growth?
“Parent like a Champion” was the name of the workshop I attended early this season with the School’s athletics I mentioned in the beginning of this article, and my first inner question while attending that program was: What is, actually, a champion? And better yet: How can one help to create one?
It is true that I understand every parent wants their children to thrive and succeed, bringing medals and trophies home! I am no different than other humans out there. However, parents and coaches must question themselves: Are we really giving room for athletes’ kids to develop their leadership skills (especially on emotional and social levels), and thus develop their true sportsmanship’s character?
Think about your own reality now. Let’s put this into a more real and effective perspective, and make a parallel here. We are talking about junior sports and the basic foundation for life and career leadership skills as an adult. Have you realized that?
Justice and moral development is something that I, for instance, take very seriously in my children’s growth, as my background in law and academia would certainly back me up for that. But what does it has to do with sports, coaching, mentoring, educational programs and leadership in today’s world? More than you may think.
Let’s begin by the definition of sportsmanship in the Merriam-Webster Virtual Dictionary: [it is a ] “conduct (such as fairness, respect for one’s opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport.”
My viewpoint here is: Can a junior athlete demonstrate a sound sportsmanship in a competitive environment? Can a champion demonstrate a sportsmanship attitude at all times? The basic answer is: yes – they should! But are they? Who are they relying on to succeed (or one could say – win) in sports and ultimately, in life?
Centered around the principles of tolerance, self-respect and respect for others, solidarity, kindness, empathy and social and emotional leadership skills, there are out there programs that can be implemented for champion-centered best coaching practices in partnership with sports parents, coaches, sports NGOs, academic administration and all involved in the progress of young athletes, and this by itself is sure a good beginning! Now… PARTNERSHIP – I said, right? CHAMPIONSHIP – I said, right? SPORTSMANSHIP – I said, right?
Winning in life and for life is much more than winning one match or one tournament. Think, for instance, how many times your athlete lost a match and made so much progress after that? Sometimes loosing one game is winning many more to come, and in so many levels. We have to realize that when pondering about your invested money, time and hours of practice, it can feel overwhelming to accommodate my thoughts on this article with parents/coaches own desire to have their youth athletes to win; however, it is time to consider it all.
Let me put this way: How can you develop your results-oriented coaching practice and align it with best sportsmanship practices in today’s competitive environment? How can your athletics’ program grow to support better human-beings for the future of humankind? How can parents/coaches play a crucial part on this? Perhaps by being: i) more aware of their own attitude (we all could act a bit as helicopters’ parents, or even snowplows’ parents, or yet demonstrating both behaviors combined, at times – right!?); ii) let the coaches do their job, and stop sending mixed messages out to your kids! Ponder here: if you think you know best than coaches whom you hired, why would you hire – in first place – one?; and iii) Let the kids have their own enjoyable time in sports and grow their stronger self-esteem from there. I am serious here. Let the kids play, for instance, in one or two play dates a month, just for fun. After all, everybody needs some mindful fun interaction with each other, from time to time. Just for a change!
Now, more than usual, having that overly competitive environment in place, with the winning-at-any-cost-mindset, having parents’ interfering at their kids’ matches, and at their kids’ practices, demonstrating an intimidating behavior against officials (and sometimes volunteers and other parents) in tournaments, contrasting most of the time with coaches’ techniques and strategies, will not only delay the making of champions around you, but also will most probably, in the long run, hurt the parents vs. children / coaches vs. parents / coaches vs. children’s relationships. We don’t want that to happen, right?
So, think about it again: go out there, in any kind of sport you have your children involved, experience what I am sharing here in this piece. Listen, look around, observe your own atittude, and then, let me hear what you have to say? Being mindful about this topic, less judgmental, open-minded and open-hearted is crucial to be a champion yourself, and to create many more to come; not only in the courts, but also out of them!
Now, honestly answer me: Are you a champion? Are you row modeling for the next generation? Remember: creating champions begin by mindfully leading yourself and your own athletes into a behavior of excellence; not the kind of excellence of winning-at-any-cost-mindset, but on the contrary, the one that focus on growth mindset, winning in life and for life. Trust me: the next generation deservers your best attitude now!
Written by Fernanda C. Alem Freitas (Fernanda Alem), founder of Brain U Coaching.