The Athletic Journey – Fun is the key!
As much as my profession is as a snowboard coach, I did not actually see the snow until I was 19. Up until then, and actually, many years after, I surfed competitively and played rugby. I never got into sports to be a legend, or to be the world’s best, I participated because they were fun, and I enjoyed the time sharing those passions with my friends. I look back on those times as the BEST times of my life (apart from the birth of my kids). I don’t remember my best results, or my best games, but remember just being stoked on progressing, getting better and all the life lessons and experiences sport gave me. I remember how FUN it was!
We live in a different time now. We live in a period of instant gratification. Some athletes, parents and coaches want everything yesterday, and the striving to be “the best” has now overshadowed why it was our kids got involved in sport: for the FUN of it.
I have been fortunate to work with some of the world’s best snowboarders. It’s been an absolute blessing, and one of the big keys to their success has been they still really enjoy what they do. Snowboarding to them is fun. They enjoy progressing and pushing their own limits. They enjoy the process. They enjoy landing new tricks, they get stoked on learning new skills. The results, the endorsements, the awards are just the bonus from that.
Throughout my career, I have tried to focus on my guys having fun. Now fun does not always have to mean laughing, carrying on and having contests of who can be the biggest goof ball. There is fun in getting better, there is fun is enlarging your comfort zone, there is fun in competition, there is fun in getting fitter and stronger.
As coaches, we have a responsibility to make sure our athletes are having fun. That they are getting some life skills and lessons from athletics. That they walk away from their time with us with a lifelong passion of their sport. My hope is when I see my athletes’ years from now, they will be out shredding with their own kids, and remember their time working with me and their coaches as one of the best times of their lives.
As a parent, all I want for my kids is that they follow their passions, and give it all they have. My kids are into dance, karate and singing. I don’t care whether Oliver wins a Gold at the karate world championships, or Charlotte has the lead in Swan Lake with the New York Ballet Company. All I care is that they work hard, enjoy what they do and have FUN. That they reach their own potential, and learn lots of lessons that will hold them in good stead as they become adults.
I have not always been in this camp. Early on in my career, I really pushed my athletes. I wanted it for them, and I wanted it for myself. It was only a recipe for disappointment and for burn out. Its only as I got older, and had kids of my own has my attitude changed.
Not every kid is going to be Shaun White, or Kaitlyn Farrington, a Sage Kotsenburg, or a Jamie Anderson. To set those expectations on kids as a coach or parent is just plain unfair.
At the end of the day, we have done our job as coaches and parents if our kid is coming off the field of play with a smile on their face, a sense of accomplishment, and a desire to keep improving themselves. That’s a job well done!
As Arthur Ashe says; “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
Keep it fun, enjoy the process, and all our kids will thrive!