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May 8, 2014

Tim Kolodziej: Maybe a can't-do attitude is what we really need

NEW CASTLE — Excuses.

For years, I had just assumed that’s all they were.

As a coach, it killed me when a player would tell me, “I can’t.”

I often thought he just didn’t feel like playing and was feeding me a line of garbage to leave him alone.

If you’ve ever coached a youth sports team, I’m sure you’ve heard it, too.

•“I’m not good in the outfield. I can’t play there.”

•“I can’t make my foul shots.”

•“I can’t catch the ball in the post. I’m not strong enough.”

•“I can’t get the bat around quick enough.”

•“I can’t make a layup with my left hand.”

You know, you’re right, kid.

You can’t.

•••

I used to fight back and say, “yes, you can! You CAN do it!”

But that’s a lie.

The truth is, you really can’t.

Yet.

One simple word.

Just three letters.

But I think it’s one of the most powerful concepts for any area of personal growth.

Yet.

Yes, I believe you. You CAN’T do it ... yet.

You CAN’T make the throw to home ... yet.

You CAN’T bring the ball up the floor against pressure ... yet.

You CAN’T.

You CAN’T.

You CAN’T.

Yet.

•••

But go ahead and try it anyway.

Yep, you’re going to dribble off your foot. Or get picked clean. Or travel.

Yep, you may throw it over the backstop. Or into the dugout. Or on seven bounces.

Try it again. Take it just a little farther. Go just a little harder. Build some confidence and see what happens next.

As coaches and parents, we must ask ourselves the hard questions:

•What if youth athletics aren’t just about “being good?” What if they are about “getting better” every day?

•What if we were to view athletic participation as just another vehicle to attain mastery? Like the classroom. Or the music studio. Or the mechanic’s garage.

•And what if games were focused less on the opponent, and more about becoming your best self each time you slip on the uniform?

I wonder what that would look like.

I think it might look like a bunch of young people having a great time — even willing to look foolish — for the sake of progress. I think it might look like a bunch of young people practicing deliberately, deeply and consistently. I think it might look like parents and coaches celebrating small successes that can lead to achieving big dreams.

You know what else I think? I think the adults who now lead and inspire others to greatness were once kids who wouldn’t settle for anything less than “yet.”

Now, if it’s true that every master was once a beginner, then we’ve got a little longer to go on our journey, kids.

So embrace the struggle. You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t make any.

Remember that “easy” is actually boring. “Challenging” is so much more fun and interesting.

And, this is the most important part, accept the fact that you’re not even close to being an expert performer.

But I believe you can be.

Yes, you can.

Just not yet.

 

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