The tip of the iceberg
Raising and developing a young athlete today requires a major investment in the experience. Like the average parent, you’re probably devoting a lot of your resources – your time, your energy, your money – trying to help your child in the areas you see are important to his success. But today I want to challenge you to see things differently than the average parent. I want you to see more. Too often, today's sports parent only sees what’s easy. What's obvious. What's right there on the surface. The champion sports parent, however, sees more – even if they have to look beneath the surface to find it.
When it comes to evaluating an athlete, some things are easy to see. Like, for instance, what you might call his specs (his height, weight, bench press, or 40 time). Or his skill (how well he dribbles, or throws, or shoots, or swings). Or all his stuff (his equipment or his apparel). All these things – the specs, the skill, the stuff – they all matter. Depending on your child’s age and ability, they might matter a lot, and your child can’t be his best unless you’re willing to invest in them. But while those areas can attract most of our attention, they’re all pretty easy to see. As a champion sports parent, you’ve got to recognize that there’s more – much more, actually – that you’re responsible for. What’s obvious is important, but for the champion sports parent, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
You probably learned in science class many years ago that what you see of an iceberg above the water-line is only a fraction of what exists beneath the surface. That’s where the expression “tip of the iceberg” comes from – the idea that there’s more here than just what you’re seeing. The same is true for your child, the athlete. There’s a lot more to his success than just what you see on the surface. That’s one of the key principles outlined inThe LENS book, that there are crucial areas of development where most sports parents aren't looking. These areas – what the book refers to as Hidden Talents – are so crucial to your kid’s success in sports and in life.
It’s what exists in the Hidden Talent areas – there beneath the surface – that separates the champion athlete from everyone else. Here’s what I mean: two players can look similar in size, strength, and skill. They can both have all the stuff and look the part of a real player. Stand them side by side, and there may appear to be very little difference. But when it comes to what makes a champion a champion, what exists on the surface is just the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s pretend for a minute that one of those athletes standing there is your kid. Yes, you’ve made an investment in all those areas that are easy to see; your kid looks the part. But as a champion sports parent, you’ve also seen clearly that helping your child become his best means strengthening and developing what exists below the surface. You’ve committed to cultivating his Hidden Talents, too. That’s why he’s got a genuine passion for playing the game. Why he understands what it means to give his best, and why he’s developed the toughness and resilience it takes to overcome the challenges that are part of sports and life. It’s why he’s developed a genuine desire to get better, and why he uplifts and inspires his teammates. It’s why he knows the importance and value of getting coached. Why he’s filled with the courage it takes to go "all in." And why he does it all with a positive, productive attitude. This kid doesn’t just look the part. He’s been built, by you from the bottom up, for real success where it really counts.
That other kid standing next to yours may look the part, too, but he’s only been built for success on the surface. His parent didn’t recognize the importance of developing those Hidden Talents. That means, despite how he looks on the surface, he’s weak and fragile in his most important areas. Did you know that when an iceberg falls apart, it happens from the bottom up? That’s right, it may look fine on top, but when it gets weak or fragile beneath the surface, it crumbles to pieces.
The same will likely be true for the athlete who’s only been built for success on the surface. Where the champion is strong and stable, the mediocre athlete is weak and fragile. And it’s in those areas that aren't as easy to see – his love for the game, his toughness and resilience, his desire to improve, his selflessness, his ability to get coached, his courage, his attitude – those are the areas where his weakness will be exposed. When that happens, it doesn’t matter how put together he looks on the surface. He's probably gonna crumble to pieces.
Strengthening your child below the surface is not quick, easy, or convenient work. Developing his Hidden Talent requires a daily commitment to the process of supporting, challenging, encouraging, cultivating, teaching, training, and equipping. Unfortunately, the Hidden Talents can’t be given as some sort of one-time gift. They can only be fortified one experience, one lesson, and one small step at a time.
This also isn’t glamorous work. Remember, it's work that’s happening below the surface. It probably won’t be spotlighted or celebrated in your life as a parent. Your child probably won’t thank you for doing it and no one else may even notice that it’s being done. But if you’re serious about doing your best, and serious about helping your child do his best? Then it’s work you’ll recognize as important and necessary.
I hope you’ll be challenged and encouraged today to see what really matters in the life of your young athlete, and to be intentional about how and where you focus your attention. The more you commit to developing what exists below the surface, the more you help separate your child from those he’ll be competing with and against for life. Yes, strengthening his Hidden Talents will lead to more success in sports, but it will also lead him to bigger, more important successes, beyond the game in life. Every Hidden Talent carries over into the life he'll be living soon, as a champion spouse, parent, professional, and friend. That means all that success you're helping him achieve on the playing field today? It's just the tip of the iceberg.
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