CONNECT THE DOTS
Remember those “connect the dots” puzzle sheets you used to do as a kid? There were numbered dots spread chaotically around the page, and before starting it often looked like a mess, like dots and numbers had been spilled and spread everywhere. Your job was to connect the dots that tied the picture together, to bring some cohesion to the chaos. The more dots you connected - one small step at a time - the clearer the picture became. What started out a confusing, complicated mess slowly but surely gained some clarity, and when the project was finally completed, you could step back and see the big picture. One simple connection from dot to dot didn’t add up to much on its own, but over time the process of connecting all those dots together finally made sense. By the end of the process, what once looked confusing and complicated was finally clear.
If you’re here today working to raise and develop champion athletes and people of your own, you may feel at times like you did as a kid, staring into the chaos of that puzzle sheet. Raising champion kids in today’s youth sports culture can feel like a complicated mess. If you’re doing this important work, I want to encourage you to return to the roots of that childhood puzzle game. To raise a champion, on the playing field and beyond, you've got to connect the dots. It’s the sure way to bring some cohesion to the chaos. The more dots you can help connect in the life of your child each day, the clearer you’ll help the picture of a champion become. One simple connection may not add up to much on its own, but over time the process of connecting all those dots together will start making sense, and a clear picture of real success will be revealed.
Make sure you see clearly what makes a champion a champion. Champion athletes may have great physical ability, but that’s not what really defines them. After all, there are a ton of athletes with elite physical skill who never come close to reaching their potential. Real champions are who they are because they combine their physical ability with some unique mental conditioning - they’ve been taught, developed, and equipped on the inside in a way that sets them apart on the outside. They see things differently. They think differently. They have an uncommon understanding of what really matters and how real success is defined. In the newsletter we regularly refer to these unique mental qualities, the ones that separate the best from everyone else, as the Talents of a Champion.
If you’re serious about developing an athlete that reaches his full potential, you better be serious about developing the Talents of a Champion. Your young athlete can’t be his best without them. Take a minute and compare for yourself, your child with any of those talents developed vs. your child without. Your child who understands what it means to give his best vs. your child who doesn’t. Your child who can overcome adversity vs. your child who can’t. Your child who values his teammates and his own role as a teammate vs. your child who doesn’t. In these areas and all the others, his development is critical. As his parent, your role in that growth is critical as well. After all, champions don’t develop any of these talents by accident. Each one is intentionally developed in a champion athlete by a champion parent. Understanding how they’re cultivated - by connecting the dots in the life of your child - is an important part of reaching your own potential, too.
The challenge is, developing these talents isn’t quick, easy, or convenient work. You can’t magically bestow them on a child or give them away as some sort of one-time gift. In these areas, you can’t instantly see a clear, finished picture of success. These skills and abilities that are so crucial to your young athlete’s success can only be cultivated through a long, slow process of growth and development - one small step at a time. That process requires a daily commitment to helping your child connect the dots on what really matters. It will include your teaching, your explaining, and your setting an example for him to follow. You’ll have to connect the dots to help illustrate what a champion looks like. Maybe you’ll use examples from your own life, from the lives of people you know, or from athletes your child admires. The process will include the ups and downs of your kid trying and failing in these areas, of struggling, changing, and gradually improving. It will require that you evaluate for yourself the areas where he’s strong and those where he’s weak, and determine for yourself how you can successfully move him closer to his very best in each one. Does this work sound easy? No way! If it was easy, every sports parent would be raising and developing champions. The truth is, this work is downright difficult. It’s a challenging, confusing, complicated project. You can do it, but only if you’re committed to the daily process of connecting the dots.
As a champion sports parent, you must be relentless in your pursuit of dots to connect, of tying events and experiences together in this process of growth and development. You must see clearly that you can use whatever happens today - be it success or struggle - to help prepare your child for bigger, more important opportunities tomorrow. You must recognize that there’s a lot your young athlete needs to learn, and accept your responsibility to help him learn it.
As is always the case, what you choose to emphasize is what your child will learn to value. That means you have to be the one who connects the dots from their success on the field to the real reasons behind that success. Sure, their physical talent probably played a part, but the more dots you can connect to those Talents of a Champion, the clearer that picture of real, authentic success becomes.
More importantly, the more dots you connect, the more you’re helping him learn how to connect the dots for himself. That will pay dividends for him in his playing days, no doubt. But soon, his days as an athlete will be over and he’ll be facing new, complicated challenges in life as an adult. Then, hopefully you’ll have helped him see that the Talents of a Champion in sports are also the Talents of a Champion in life, that all those qualities you developed and cultivated in your young athlete carry over to the life he’ll be living in manhood. Your passionate, hard-working, resilient, growth-minded, selfless, coachable, courageous, inspiring athlete can see a clear picture of what it takes to be his best as a successful spouse, a parent, a professional, and a friend. He’ll also be able to step back and see the reality of the hard work you did helping him connect the dots - helping him understand what real success looks like and equipping him in the areas he needed to reach his full potential. So embrace the process, dot by dot today, even though it may feel challenging, confusing, or complicated in the moment. Soon it’ll all be clear, and you’ll be glad you did.