I learned more about the art of teaching as a coach than I did in college – undergraduate or graduate. To this day a great classroom session feels like a great practice, and vice versa.
One vital coaching lesson that carried over is this: standards are more important than rules because standards create a culture, and culture creates ownership. Ultimately this brought me to a succinct set of beliefs, which I'm sure our teachers here at Cathedral are already sick of hearing: Fake it 'til you make it. Embrace the Monster. Teach the student, not the subject. What you permit you promote. Be easily pleased and rarely satisfied. Fail forward.
When working with players, however, I had a few other standards I championed, and none was more vital than this: Do not allow yourself to be a victim. Over time it was abbreviated to DBAV - Don't Be A Victim.
In literal terms all of us are victims at some point in our life. All of us will be taken advantage of at some point; we will all be dealt a bad break; tragically many will be abused or neglected. I'm not immune. In 2009 I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just a couple months before my oldest child was born. I almost never discuss this; actually, I will only talk about it if it allows me to preach DBAV.
This was a trying time for Susan and I. At the same time we were debating a name for our little girl, I was doing the darkest type of math: Would I see my daughter enter school? Would I live long enough to see her graduate? Would I get to walk her down the aisle? Would I live long enough for her to even remember me? Like I said, a melancholy formula created from a mixture of the unkown and the natural tendency to peer into shadowy corners of the mind.
Then a single moment in which the tables were turned put an end to all my calculations: When I told my players of my diagnosis, and my need to miss practices for treatment, a senior stepped forward (Gianna, I’ll never forget you): "Coach Ek, we are all behind you. And that means we won't let you be a victim.” Then with a grin, “So don't bring whining or excuses in here!"
Literally I was a victim. Why me? Why this rare, genetic anomaly surfacing just before I became a dad? But in the truest sense I could/would choose not be a victim - I would, with the help of family, friends, Faith and players, re-frame my role. If that's unclear, just look at Joseph Hibler for a living example.
The moment a child (or an adult) makes an excuse or whines they have abandoned ownership. They have said, "I don't have power in this situation,” and by this abdication the extension: “I’m the victim.” This purchase of temporary protection at the cost of accountability and/or righteous defiance is not one we should accept. Worse than allowing a child to make this transaction would be modeling it.
When students and players refused to take ownership or whined I always countered with, "Are you powerless?" The trained (and required) reply was, "No - I am powerful beyond measure."
Those who use excuses and victimhood as refuge from life's realities, even for a moment, are left with the foundation for a habit that has a dire consequence: truths, whether good or bad, are relentless. When they finally catch up, will our children be powerless and inadequate, or will they be powerful beyond measure? The answer to that question is a vital one because today's world is more chaotic and spontaneous than ever - while we can't control much, we do own our reaction. What reaction do our children practice?
As is so often the case, we need only look to our Savior - as He wept in the garden He was all too human. Yet He was fully prepared to take victimhood to a level that can only be described as out of this world. He did not whine or make excuses, and His defiance of earthly victimization opened Heavenly gates. The Lamb was sacrificed, but transcended victimhood.
All of what has been written above can be misinterpreted as lacking sympathy or compassion for those with struggles. Nothing could be further from the truth. That's why in my next blog I'd like to discuss The Drama Triangle, and the feeling many have that they must rescue the victimized (as prep, maybe look at Jesus’ reply to those who tried to “rescue” him from slander and abuse). Until then please consider what things exist in our homes, sports teams, clubs and organizations that perpetuate excuses, inadequacy and a lack of accountability. Here at Cathedral we should work together to eradicate any sense of powerlessness from our children’s lives as we form them in Christ's image.