Let's imagine I am back in the gym for a weekend of youth basketball. I enter this time just to watch. To observe. To listen to the actions of the coaches, the body language of the kids, the not-so-quiet advice of the parents. The whistles. The energy. The scores. The noise. All of it. To soak it all in.
Within minutes I am on overload. I have heard more instructions within a 10 minute span of basketball than any single player could possibly comprehend. I am not exaggerating. If you quiet yourself enough and tune into the surroundings, you will experience the same. Complete overload. "Shoot this. Do that. Play harder. Come on, make that pass. Get that rebound. Where's the foul?" You get the picture.
But here's the really odd thing: amidst all this noise, I hear very few instructions on the things that I think matter the most. I hear countless voices giving kids physical instructions. But what is missing yells at me the most. For I hear few people address the things I will be evaluating closely when these same kids want to be recruited.
Body language. Leadership. Positive speech. Cheering on your teammates. Looking your coaches in the eye. Respecting the officials. Embracing adversity. Taking the next shot with confidence. Accepting your role. Entering the game well. Departing the game well.
And that's just the start.
We spend entire weekends shouting instructions. They aren't typically bad instructions, but they are usually unnecessary and often to the neglect of the more important things. If we are honest, we will admit that coaches and parents are often telling kids things they already know. The game teaches the game better than we do. You throw the ball away and you learn it was a bad decision. You get your shot blocked and you learn how to pump fake. But somehow we don't think the game is enough. We need to keep on the kids. To point out the obvious. To over-instruct.
So we instruct. But not on the things that can really be controlled. Not on the things that matter the most in 5 years and 10 years and the rest of our lives. No. We focus on things that happen non-stop in the game of basketball, because we need to get the win. We focus our energies on turnovers and missed shots and missed opportunities.
We are missing the boat. We are missing what matters most now and forever. Character and the habits that lead to true, long-term success. Do we call our kids to this? Do we talk about these things with them the most? On the ride there and the ride home?
Let's be honest: most of us are focused on all the wrong things.
But we don't have to be. We can change. And if we really want to help our kids, we have to start with ourselves.
I challenge each of you headed somewhere this weekend to make a list of what really should matter. See how well you can focus on these things. Talk to your kids about them and let them hold you accountable. Go a step further and ask them to make their own list. You may be pleasantly surprised by their insight. You might also surprise yourself by enjoying the weekend all the more.