Have you ever been told that you were not good enough, that you could not do something, or that it just was not meant to be? I know I have, but questions such as these have always left me puzzled. There are people young and old around the world defying these negative limitations that people impose on them. In addressing this issue I will ask my own question that perhaps one of our readers has an answer or opinion about. Why do certain coaches, mentors, and teachers make us believe that there are things that we cannot do?
Every year at camp we have at least one participant at every location state the following; “My coach told me that I cannot do that, or my coach says that I’m not good at that.” Now maybe this coach has some merit to what he or she is saying, however did they say that you can NEVER do it or you will NEVER be good at it? This is where I believe there’s a disconnect between the coach and the players. Kids of all ages look up to their coaches and their teachers and in many cases take what is told to them at face value. I understand as well as any that challenging players and motivating them by telling them they cannot do something is a tool that can work, but this type of coaching may not work in every situation.
Our society as a whole in many ways dictates who we are and who we become. What I mean by that is people are quick to tell us how unattractive, un-athletic, and untalented we are, when in many cases these statements are just untrue. The mind is a powerful tool and I truly believe that mental toughness outweighs physical toughness when it comes to sports. Look at JJ Barea of the Dallas Mavericks as an example. JJ has always been a decent player; great is something we are just now starting to learn about him. Any athlete will tell you that training is done in the offseason. Before the Lakers series started, JJ wasn’t doing off-season workouts, spending hours drilling and conditioning. His greatness has come in the form of confidence and mental toughness. It is something that many players come to find.
Look at Shannon Brown’s rise when he arrived in Los Angeles. Brown was mediocre at best when he became a Laker and he is now considered a fairly good NBA player. Did he get better or did he become mentally tougher? Speaking of the Lakers, take a hard look at Pau Gasol. One of the most skilled big men to ever play the game, he lost his confidence, and lost his game. Pau looked like one of the league’s worst at times and not like the two-time champion and NBA All-Star that he is. This is the power of the mind and the ability of others to affect us as individuals.
I ran into a parent the other day who told me that her son was no longer playing basketball. A little surprised, I asked why. She told me that his coaches were not very encouraging and ultimately deterred him from continuing on. This appalled me. Teachers and coaches are given the wonderful gift of being able to help and shape future generations of people. When are we going to stop discouraging our youth and start encouraging them? Stop telling kids they cannot and they will not and start telling them they should and they can.
You may have trouble shooting. Well, do you practice? No, my coaches just told me I couldn’t so I started focusing on other things. You want to be a good shooter, practice! Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player to ever touch a basketball said it best. “If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
Use the roadblocks as motivation and never let anyone tell you that you can’t or won’t do something. Always believe that you can even when others don’t. Hard work, dedication, and mental toughness can make anything possible. I tell our kids every year that if you give everything you have and you fail, then you can hold your head high knowing that you gave it your all. If you never try or are deterred by the naysayer’s then you will never know what could have been. Be that possibility and overcome the obstacles.