don't forget the "yet"
We live in a culture today that promotes an increasingly myopic, or short-sighted, perspective. Too often, our focus is only on what's right in front of us. We’ve been trained to value instant gratification – we’re always working to make things faster, easier, and more convenient. These days, because we’re so used to getting what we want right away, it’s easy to diminish anything that takes time or makes us wait. We have a tendency to offer immediate judgment on whether someone or something is valuable. If it’s not great right away, it’s easier to toss it aside than it is to wait for its development.
That mindset has permeated our youth sports culture, too, and it’s made raising a champion athlete and man more challenging than ever. It’s not hard to find ourselves making those immediate judgments of a young athlete’s ability, especially our son’s. Either he has it or he doesn’t. And that's just one of many ways a myopic perspective is compromising what's really important in youth sports - our son's long-term development - for something more immediate.
Unfortunately, too often today young kids get cut from a team and are discouraged too early from playing the game - usually before they're given a chance to develop. Many coaches or parents myopically pigeon-hole players into positions based on their size in the present instead of developing a more complete player built for the future. Or sometimes those same coaches or parents make decisions that help their kids win at any cost today, but in doing so, they mortgage bigger, more important successes that could be available later. If all we can see is what’s right in front of us, and without the big picture in mind, it’s easy to make decisions that complicate – not simplify – our sons' ability to reach their full potential, especially when it matters most.
The reality is that for any athlete, becoming his best takes time. No matter where or when he starts or how much natural ability he has, it’s a long process. It’s always been that way, and it will always be that way. As our world places more and more value on the things that are quick, easy, and convenient, it makes trusting, embracing, and enjoying the process of becoming a champion – and of raising one – harder than ever. But if you’re serious about making it happen, you’ve got to accept that it’s the only route you and your son will take.
If that's you - if you want to commit to that process, then here’s your challenge and encouragement for today: don’t forget the "yet." This is an idea promoted in the powerful book Mindset, by Dr. Carol Dweck. It's a simple reminder that may never be more true than it is today, and that may never be more relevant than it is for you, the sports parent.
Unfortunately, too many of us have a tendency to focus on judging our sons instead of focusing on developing them, especially when they're not very good at something. Instead of hunting for ways to help make him better for tomorrow (what Dweck calls a growth mindset), we create for ourselves and promote in our boys some negative, immediate, counter-productive judgment (what Dweck calls a fixed mindset).
But if you’re serious about raising a champion, you can’t forget the "yet." As an example, let’s say your Little League son wants to be a pitcher but is struggling with his mechanics or control. As his parent, what's the difference between these two judgments of his ability?
He's not a good pitcher.
He's not a good pitcher yet.
There’s only one word's worth of difference in those two statements, but that one word makes all the difference in the mindset you create for yourself and for your son. “He’s not a good pitcher” means it’s over, it’s finished. There’s no use trying to do better. It’s a waste of time – he’ll never get it. And it’s possible of course, that your boy might not have what it takes to be a pitcher. A growth mindset doesn’t mean that anyone can become anything. But if you forget the "yet," it’s likely you’ll make the judgment, accept it as final, and bail on the process without ever really giving it a shot. Maybe he could become a good pitcher. But this way, you’ll never know.
On the other hand, “He’s not a good pitcher yet” changes your perspective and probably what you decide to do with it. That one, simple word provides proof that you’re thinking like a champion parent, and if your son can say the same, then he’s thinking like a champion athlete, too. It’s proof that he’s not where he could be, and he’s not where he needs to be, but he’s also not where he’s gonna be. It’s proof that you understand the reality of helping him reach his full potential – that it’s a never-ending process of trying, struggling, learning, failing, persevering, growing, and improving.
Whatever sport your son plays or whatever physical skills he needs to develop in order to become his best, I hope you’ll never forget the "yet." But more importantly, if you want your son to become a champion, you must embrace this process of growth and development for his mental ability, as well. The best of the best possess more than just elite physical skill. They have a higher level understanding of what it takes to be great and have developed the mentality of a champion, too.
Your son has to understand what it means to give his best, for example, and how to meet that high standard every day. It's your job to teach him that. He has to understand what adversity looks like for an athlete and he has to develop the resilience it takes to overcome it. He has to understand how to be a teammate, what that looks like, and why it’s important. He has to understand the risks involved in sports and the courage it takes to succeed. These are just a few of the mental skills that have nothing to do with his size, strength, or athletic skill, but have everything to do with determining the athlete and man your son becomes.
So in these areas, too, if you’re serious about raising a champion, don’t forget the "yet." It's true here like it was in areas of his physical ability. After watching him play, it may be obvious to you that he’s a long way from getting it. So how will you approach that reality?
He doesn't understand what it means to give his best.
He doesn't understand what it means to give his best yet.
He's not resilient enough to overcome adversity.
He's not resilient enough to overcome adversity yet.
He doesn't have the courage it takes.
He doesn't have the courage it takes yet.
If you haven’t forgotten the "yet," that’s good. But then, of course, the real question becomes…what are you gonna do about it? How can you teach your boy what he needs but doesn’t yet have? How can you help get him from where he is now to where he needs to be? The champion parent recognizes and accepts this responsibility. You've got to use the experiences he has today to help him take another step forward on the journey. Keep helping him, supporting him, and challenging him. Trust, embrace, and enjoy the process. And believe that if you do it right, you'll help him become the best he can be. He can get there, and he will - if you see to it. He’s just not there…yet.