In a recent interview, Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo spoke about the large number of kids who are transferring from basketball programs for what he believes to be all the wrong reasons:
“We’re creating a system that we’re never teaching a kid how to fight through (tough times). There’s a lot of kids who should transfer for the right reasons. But 3/4 of the kids are transferring because they didn’t get enough shots, didn’t get enough ball, didn’t do this or that. We’re helping create a society of, when the going gets tough, you bolt and leave.”
You can read the whole article here: http://coachingsearch.com/article?a=Tom-Izzo-Were-creating-a-system-where-kids-dont-learn-to-handle-adversity
Maybe Izzo was referring solely to the culture of AAU and high school basketball or maybe he wasn’t. I don’t know. What I do know is that the quote struck a nerve. It brought up one of my great fears when it comes to parenting – the fear that my kids won’t know how to fight through the tough times.
As I think about it, I consider myself very lucky. I grew up in a well-to-do suburb north of Los Angeles. Nice two-story house. Good food. Clothes. Heat. Electricity. Water. Freedom. Basic things most take for granted here in the U.S.. Adversity? I’m not sure I’ve had to really face much of it save for a few health issues that, in hindsight, I had no choice but to face head on any way.
Compare that to my mother. She was born the youngest of six while her family was imprisoned in Manzanar, a barren desert landscape located near the Sierra mountain range in eastern California. Manzanar was the largest of ten Japanese-American concentration camps set up throughout the United States during World War II. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government forced 110,000 Japanese-American citizens from their home and drove them out to desolate regions of the country. They were made to live in cramped dust-filled wooden barracks behind miles of barbed wire. And when the war finally did end, many returned to their homes empty handed. They had lost everything save for what dignity they had left. All that welcomed them was poverty and racism. Yet in the face of these, the toughest of times, my mother and her siblings pushed forward. Endured. Made a life for themselves. Fought hard to ensure that their children would live a better life. And they succeeded. But that success has presented another challenge. How do I, the privileged son, ensure that my children confront life’s problems with the same attitude as the generation before me?
Best intentions aside, chances are pretty strong that Baby Girl and Baby Boy will have some difficult decisions to make as they grow up. I’ll always feel the need to protect my kids. Emotionally and physically. Heck, I noted that in a Facebook post a few days ago how sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever let my kids outside. I’d be more willing to let them through the door if I could figure out a way to encase them in bubble wrap. But what good would that do other than prolong the inevitable? One day they will experience pain and loss and trouble and situations that will fail to go in their favor. Their character will be tested. What they believe to be morally and ethically correct will be questioned. How will I have helped prepare them for those moments?
Shortly after I read the Izzo’s quote, I was forwarded this parenting post from Glennon Doyle Melton. The article is titled, The Most Valuable Thing You Can Do For Your Kids. The subtitle is, One of our toughest jobs as parents is to allow our kids to weather life’s storms.
Melton’s point? Life’s hard but, with support, your kids can push through it. I’ve heard it before. In Melton’s last paragraph she writes, “We look them right in the eye, point to their pain, and say, “Don’t be afraid, baby. You were born to do this.” Sounds simple enough. Is it though?
In my opinion, sometimes it’s okay to be afraid. So maybe that’s what I’ll remind Baby Girl and Baby Boy. Being afraid is normal. It’s our body’s natural defense mechanism. It heightens our senses. Puts us on guard. Forces us to weigh all options without jumping into something too soon. It may even make some decisions a little easier. After all, life can be scary.
But maybe I’ll also tell them this: do not let fear paralyze you. Dot not let fear control you. Do not let fear force you backwards when the smart move is to continue forwards. Do not let fear dictate your path. When it gets tough, you persevere. Just like my mother and her family. Take fear into consideration. Understand why you’re afraid. But at the end of the day, make your own rational decision. And whatever you do, do not take the easy way out.
Do not just bolt and leave.
Copyright 2017 Damien Alameda. All Rights Reserved.