Responding to Adversity

High school athletics can help teach and instill many character traits that will benefit students later in life in their quest for success. I reflected on this recently after being asked a very good question from a lady at church. 

The person asking the question had read a Facebook post where I expressed my gratitude for a particular group of parents I had while coaching. This group of parents never approached me with a criticism - either directly or indirectly. 

The question was “do you think they didn’t complain because all their kids got playing time?”

The simple answer is no. Throughout my 20+ years in public education, I have experienced or observed parents complaining about more than just playing time. Complaints or criticisms could come from what offense or defense you run, what position their child plays, an in-game adjustment, how many shots their child gets, how their child is substituted, and more. 

Several years ago, a team I was coaching trailed by three points in a game with just a few seconds remaining. I called a timeout and put my best three point shooters on the floor. I removed a particular player who was not a great shooter at the time. This grew the ire of his parents. They requested a meeting with me to complain about my decision to remove their son for the final shot. It was not a pleasant meeting. 

What transpired ended up being a beautiful thing. The young man became determined to never let that happen again. He didn’t rely on his parents to complain their way to more playing time or complain their way to influencing the coach’s decisions. No, this young man went to work. By the next season, he was one of the best shooters on the team. He took his frustrations into his own hands and made himself better. This, in turn, made his team better. 

I believe this is a great example from which all parents and players could learn. When things don’t go our way, we cannot complain our way to a solution - or at least a solution that benefits the team more than the individual. But what we can do is learn the “why” and get to work. 

When facing adversity, we don’t learn and grow when others move to the front lines for us to fight our battles. We learn and grow when we take an honest look at our circumstances and frustrations. We learn and grow when we stay on the front lines ourselves determined to improve in the areas that caused our frustration. 

Parents, it’s ok to let our children fail, struggle, or become frustrated. It’s our job as parents and coaches to help them learn determination and resiliency as they conquer their own adversity. In doing so, we help our children develop character traits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Doug Dunn is currently junior high principal for the Licking (MO) School District. He has previously served as a K-8 superintendent and elementary principal. Doug can be found on Twitter @DougDunnEdS.