DON’T SKIP THE STRUGGLE
In a world where we’ve come to expect that what we want will come quickly, easily, and conveniently, the idea of struggling for anything may seem unnecessary. It probably seems even more unnecessary – or even flat-out silly – to your young athlete. But believe it or not, if you’re serious about raising and developing a champion, then you're responsible for recognizing the role that struggle will play in his or her experience. It's not fun or glamorous, but it is important. That's why I hope you won't skip the struggle that's inevitably coming for you and your child. If you do, you'll both miss out on all it has to offer.
Struggle is not the same as failure. Failure is falling short of success – it’s a negative result or outcome. There is finality to failure. The story’s over, and it's ended poorly. There are important lessons for our kids to learn through failure, mostly about how to get back up after we fall and how we can use the experience to write our next story better.
Struggle, though also challenging, is different. It’s striving to find success through difficulty or resistance. This story’s not going well either, but here the story’s not over yet. When we're struggling, we’re doing what we can to press on, to hang tough, and to see it through. The lessons that exist for us and for our kids in the midst of a struggle are different, but no less important. Here it isn't about getting back up after we fall; it’s about refusing to fall. Refusing to quit. Refusing to lay down and accept that the story’s over. Struggling builds the perseverance required for us and for our kids to finish the race we've set out to run, and in the process to become our very best.
Struggling isn't about getting back up after we fall; it’s about refusing to fall. Refusing to quit. Refusing to lay down and accept that the story’s over.
Despite its value and importance, it’s human nature for anyone – for us or for our kids – to want to skip the struggle, to marginalize or diminish this process, and just impatiently jump to the fun, glamorous part already. It can be tough to muster the toughness to press on, and even tougher to help our child do the same. But I hope you can see clearly today that when you embrace the struggle instead of working to avoid it, you help your child learn to embrace it as well. Your example, in the midst of any challenge, will help determine how he or she learns to handle it, too.
When you embrace the struggle, you and your child can recognize the opportunity you’re presented to grow and improve. Through this process, you strengthen your willingness and ability to learn. When you recognize the value that can come from this experience, and what's possible if you stay the course, you can struggle well and stay positive in the face of difficulty.
When you try to skip the struggle, however, you and your child miss out on this chance for improvement, and more likely close yourselves off to what the experience can teach you. It's easier to turn angry or negative, or to feel like you’re stuck in the middle of some unfair situation. Struggling poorly like this creates a victim mindset, and usually leads you and your child into a cycle of blaming, complaining, and other unhealthy and unproductive responses.
Your child’s experience in sports is a great opportunity for him or her to experience the growth that comes with learning to embrace the struggle. If they’re an athlete for long, they’ll probably find these opportunities regularly – sometimes created by their own doing, sometimes not. Either way, they’ll need your support, your encouragement, and your help in uncovering the meaning and purpose behind the challenge they’re facing.
Help them clarify what this difficulty means in the context of their story. Is this a failure? Is the story over? If so, there are some important lessons to learn about getting back up now that they’ve fallen, and using the experience to write a better story next time. More likely, though, they need you to clarify for them that their story isn't over . In the big picture, this is part of the process to becoming their best, so they’ve got to press on, hang tough, and see it through. In a moment like this, help them see that it’s not about getting back up after you fall; it’s about refusing to fall. So don’t quit. Don’t lay down and accept that the story’s over. Don’t skip the struggle, and miss out on all it has to offer.
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